Category Archives: Paul’s Haircut

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


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.


Tyler Perry and Chris Brown

imagesDuring this morning’s news broadcast, my wife and I watched a story about airlines beginning to use music videos in order to explain flight safety rules in a manner that holds more passengers’ attention. While this is an interesting happening, it is no more newsworthy than a report of Kerry Washington announcing her pregnancy. It is not as if Washington was as barren as John the Baptist’s mother, or as much a virgin as Mary. Stories like the Scandal star’s gestation and airline safety videos should not ask for us to give to them our intelligent mental focus.

Such also is true for the report of Tyler Perry laying his hands on Bishop T. D. Jakes at Megafest in September. While a critical thinking venue like The Front Porch has given an solid theological perspective on the event, and Jet Magazine reported that Jakes has giving time to defending Perry’s actions, I do not find the story to be worth the continuing attention it has garnished. Laying on of hands and Pentecostals go together like burgers and fries.

On the other hand, if Tyler Perry could lay praying hands on singer Chris Brown, that would be worthy of attention. A few days ago, Brown was arrested in DC for hitting a man who attempted to jump into a picture with Brown. The spoiled musician reportedly blurted a homosexual slur before hitting the fan. In DC Superior Court, Brown’s assault charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and he was released without bail.

This was not the first fisticuff incident for Brown. His rap sheet includes the 2009 physical attack on then-girlfriend, recording artist Rihanna, leaving her with bruises to the face that required hospitalization. When Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts asked Brown about the incident in a 2011 interview, Brown left the interview early, and threw an object at one of the station’s windows.

Then there was that 2012 brawl with Drake and his entourage at a nightclub in New York City. In January of this year, Brown decided to pummel singer Frank Ocean outside of a recording studio in West Hollywood. Supposedly Brown also threated to shoot Ocean, and hurled a homosexual slur at him. Shall we add that recently Brown gloated in saying he had his first sexual experience at 8 years of age, wearing it as a badge contributing to his self-proclaimed prowess in the bedroom?

Brown is a man who needs help. He is an immature entertainment star with larger than life narcissistic tendencies – which themselves are fueled by throngs of fans who overlook his childish capers, and by an ex-girlfriend who has returned to the abuser despite his ongoing pattern of destructive behavior. His antics reveal a sinful man lacking the power of God in his life. We need to put the pause button on buying his CDs and concert tickets, trying to grab a celebrity photo-op with him, and (ladies) fantasizing about a date with him. Instead, we should introduce Chris to the meek and lowly Christ who died for sinners and has risen again.

So Perry laying hands on Bishop T. D. Jakes, with the result that a man already associated with the church falls as one slain by the Spirit, is unimpressive. However, if Tyler Perry could lay hands on Chris Brown, exorcise Brown’s egotism, put Brown on a path of wisdom and self-control, and get Brown to shout “Hallelujer” like Madea, that would be news to me.


Some Revelations of Racial Regress (Three Weeks Later)

imagesThree weeks ago, I submitted the following post for consideration to a popular blog site. However, before they could make a decision on the post, the Zimmerman Trial concluded. I asked the site to withdraw the submission in light of the end of the trial. I have closed the comments.


Paula Deen’s self-justified use of the N-word, combined with the SCOTUS (U.S. Supreme Court) non-decision on Affirmative Action in college admissions, calls for a double-take concerning where we are heading on race in America. When you add to these the SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act and the George Zimmerman trial, then racial progress in the U.S. looks like it is sitting on a powder keg. Consider:

1.  The political achievement of an African American President seems to be more about ideology than race. Although he was born at the tail end of the Boomer era, President Obama is the political offspring of the 1960’s liberals. If he were not as liberal as he is toward the dismantling of traditional marriage and the safeguarding of abortion, I suspect he would not have the favorable poll ratings he currently enjoys. His favor is not a commentary on our progress on race as much as it is a commentary on our regress on morality. A lowering of morality will accept any racial identity.

2.  The justification of use of the N-word by Paula Deen seems to reveal that economics makes it virtually impossible to eliminate race-based social stratification and animadversion. That is, if Paula Deen thought that she would lose business by her comments, she probably would not have attempted to justify them as suitable. Apparently she assumed that enough of her consumers shared her views on race that her label would be accepted even if she revealed it to be the face of a racist corporate owner. Certainly the consumers she had in mind were not African American. If we had known she harbored such racial sentiments, my family and I would not have patronized Deen’s The Lady and Sons restaurant on a recent visit to Savannah, Georgia.

3.  The complexities of the Zimmerman trial seem to reveal that African Americans need to make a greater assault toward countering negative stereotypes. Zimmerman is not the nation’s only racial profiler. Sadly, I am one of millions of Americans who is shocked and pleased to hear an African American professional athlete use the King’s English in a post-game interview. Also, I am one who is grateful to see an articulate African American speaking into a microphone on the nightly news. Yet this reveals that I am expecting – as are many others – a different experience.

           Similarly, in the recent AT&T, “Faster is Better” commercials, as one of my friends noticed, an African American girl says, “castses” instead of “casts,” and an African American boy acts like a buffoon while doing “two things at once,” as if his multitasking could not involve an intelligent and poised discussion. AT&T gives prominent roles to two minority children, but does not give them exalted roles; instead it gives stereotypical roles. If such stereotypes are expected and acceptable, what might happen when a hooded, unidentified African American teen, walking at night in a gated community, is sighted by a neighborhood watch figure with legal permission to stand his ground? I am not justifying Zimmerman’s actions, for I think he erred in acting on the stereotype, and in pursuing Martin when he was told not to do so. For this much he is guilty of Second Degree Manslaughter in the least, even if both Zimmerman and Martin acted in self-defense in the aftermath of Zimmerman’s initial errors.

As a parent, I have told my children with the greatest seriousness, “When you walk into a store, the camera is on you. You cannot run down aisles loudly and rudely as children of other ethnicities might be permitted to do, and you cannot touch anything.” When you do not touch items on the shelf in a store, the accusation of theft will be impossible even where stereotypes abound, and you will be working toward negating the stereotype.

4.  The SCOTUS decision reveals a naiveté about racial discrimination that harms future racial progress in the country. Greater than the issue of legal criteria for judging states’ oversight by the government is the issue of the evil in peoples’ hearts. Please, do not deceive yourself for one moment by quoting to me, “You cannot legislate morality.” A society cannot change the intents and motives of individuals, but we can codify right and wrong so that we can restrain evil and incentivize the good. Without legislation, we leave institutional change to the morality of each citizen — morality that often degrades when obtaining positions of power are at stake. I suspect a greater number of minorities will witness challenges both in being able to vote, and in making sure cast votes are counted in upcoming elections.

In all, the racial challenges in the country reveal that many hearts need a change that will promote a focus on the dignity of all people, and not simply one’s own race, ethnicity, or country. Such change will not come from education, legislation, or adjudication alone, for educators, legislators, and judges simply are people in academic, governmental, and legal roles: They suffer from racial blind spots and ethnic favoritism common to all of us. Real change must come from an influence external to every one of us.

I have witnessed Christ changing the hearts of many who are racist or ethnocentric, for Christ offers the power to see oneself humbly and others as greater than oneself (Phil. 2:3-4). His power gives life over death to all indiscriminant of race, class, gender, or social status (Gal. 3:26-29). Such power comes because Christ both died on the Cross in order to conquer sin and its curse – including racism-related sins – and rose again with power over death and all things (Gal. 3:13; Mt. 28:16-20). Obedience to the preaching of this Gospel would affect racial progress all over the globe.

Recommended: The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America? (Oxford)

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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No Rights on Maryland Question 6

Question 6 may be the most important issue in the upcoming Maryland election. Its passage would be the first victory on referendum for same sex marriage in the country. An electorate’s support of the legislation would mean a swell in the tide against traditional marriage for our nation. All other institutions in Maryland would be radically harmed too, for the family affects all structures in society.

In an effort to help to the passage of Question 6 find more success this season than the hometown baseball team, Julian Bond has stepped in as designated hitter. The well-known activist is playing Civil Rights Leader-in-Chief on the issue, framing the question as just another of the many rights issues to which he has given his whole life to fighting. While there are moral problems associated with framing same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, it is not immoral for a rights activist to side with a platform generically framed as a rights issue.

It is hypocritical, however, for a member of the clergy to side with such an issue, because this issue conflicts with the tenants of the Christian faith. The role of the cleric is to follow sacred Scripture, regardless of how disparate its teachings are with societal norms. Differing with societal norms is the nature of sacred Scripture, as it beholds the norms of what Augustine termed, “The City of God.”

Historically, the one called to proclaim the word of the Lord often found himself in jeopardy by being at odds with the general population and heads of states. The Hebrew prophets Moses and Jeremiah were among those who preached against oppression and other moral evils at the threat of their lives. The evangelist John the Baptist lost his head for not looking the other way at King Herod’s adulterous act. Many other preachers have encountered imprisonment, even martyrdom, for preaching the truth when society at large needed a moral corrective. The Twenty First Century preacher’s task has not changed, even when most of society has sought to broaden the definition of marriage beyond Scripture’s “male and female.”

In recent TV commercials, Maryland pastors Delman Coates and Donté Hickman indicate that their support for Question 6 concerns the equal and fair treatment of all by the State. “I wouldn’t want someone denying my rights based on their religious views, [therefore] I shouldn’t deny others’ based on mine,” these ministers say. They also erroneously propose that Question 6 is about “protecting religious freedom.”

The men and women who make up the General Assembly have religious views that contribute to their decision-making processes. The current prevailing view on Question 6 is that government and religion should remain in separate spheres. In general, religion should have no contribution to public policy, and religious views are simply value-based judgments. Those holding this view do not take into consideration the grounding of many Christian beliefs in historical facts, and that Christianity’s arguments for truth have held up to intellectual and academic scrutiny for many centuries prior to the signing of the first law in Maryland until now. The moral codes of the church are therefore being dismissed and denied by Maryland officials based on the majority’s preference to keep religion away from the legislative conclusions of the General Assembly.

By Hickman and Coates’ reasoning, this is not fair to Marylanders. Support of Question 6 undermines any religious freedom supposedly protected by this law. In voicing their support of this Question, the two clergymen saw off the moral and civil branches on which we all sit.

Moreover, contemporary society has no need for members of the clergy to sanction popular opinion. A plethora of professional pundits, bloggers, comedians, scholars, and politicians fulfill that role. Rather, the City of Man needs members of the clergy to be the voice of God within a culture. If the public square is not the appropriate place to discuss moral matters from a religiously exclusivist perspective, and the parish pulpit continues to acquiesce to this postmodern philosophy, soon there will be no place to voice an alternate moral view. Thoughtful Marylanders, and all Americans, should see how this too would be neither fair nor right.

Related post: Julian Bond is Wrong on Same-Sex Marriage and Two Ads Marylanders Need to Watch

Related resource: D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Crossway).

W.E.B DuBois Would Not Vote in This Election

From the Pure Church blog, with thanks to Thabiti Anyabwile. (I am glad that I am not alone in my decision.)  W.E.B DuBois Would Not Vote in This Election:


W.E.B DuBois Would Not Vote in This Election

I know. I was surprised at the notion myself. A tireless champion of Civil Rights, a participant of the Niagra Movement and one of the founders of the NAACP, one would expect DuBois to argue the moral responsibility of voting–particularly for a people recently disenfranchised.

But in a piece entitled, “Why I Won’t Vote,” delivered on October 20, 1956, DuBois made an eloquent case for not voting at all.  The entire speech really should be read; it’s haunting in its description of themes and tensions in 1956 that could as easily apply to 2012. DuBois begins with a kind of biography of his voting record:

Since I was twenty-one in 1889, I have in theory followed the voting plan strongly advocated by Sidney Lens in The Nation of August 4, i.e., voting for a third party even when its chances were hopeless, if the main parties were unsatisfactory; or, in absence of a third choice, voting for the lesser of two evils. My action, however, had to be limited by the candidates’ attitude toward Negroes. Of my adult life, I have spent twenty-three years living and teaching in the South, where my voting choice was not asked. I was disfranchised by law or administration. In the North I lived in all thirty-two years, covering eight Presidential elections. In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner. Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War. In 1916 I took Hughes as the lesser of two evils. He promised Negroes nothing and kept his word. In 1920, I supported Harding because of his promise to liberate Haiti. In 1924, I voted for La Follette, although I knew he could not be elected. In 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us. I voted for Norman Thomas and the Socialists, although the Socialists had attempted to Jim Crow Negro members in the South. In 1932 I voted for Franklin Roosevelt, since Hoover was unthinkable and Roosevelt’s attitude toward workers most realistic. I was again in the South from 1934 until 1944. Technically I could vote, but the election in which I could vote was a farce. The real election was the White Primary.

Then he comes to explain the dilemma of the 1956 election:

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in 1952), a “Socialist” Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by “force and violence.” Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called “Communist” and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail. The witnesses against him may be liars or insane or criminals. These witnesses need give no proof for their charges and may not even be known or appear in person. They may be in the pay of the United States Government. A.D.A.’s and “Liberals” are not third parties; they seek to act as tails to kites. But since the kites are self-propelled and radar-controlled, tails are quite superfluous and rather silly.

For DuBois, democracy must entail genuine choice and the proper exercise of voting rights requires actual alternatives. The “lesser of two evils” was not for him the modus operandibut a terrible exception. He would view the now commonplace strategy of voting for the “lesser evil” as a terrible indictment against the entire system. He insisted that voters ought to have a more compelling reason for casting their lot than “this guy isn’t as bad as the other guy.” He denied that a “helpless vote” could restore or bolster American democracy.

So, he protested and “voted” by not voting. This election a small number of African-American pastors are telling their congregations that there is no “lesser evil” with the two parties. These pastors recommend that their members not vote. For their efforts, a much larger collection of ministers will vilify them and proclaim they betray the long struggle for the franchise. But I wonder what the majority would say to DuBois? I wonder if the majority see with as much clarity, insight, and foresight as DuBois did in 1956? I doubt it because no one seems to see the continuing deterioration of the country. Oh, I know that people on both “sides” decry the other side as the rot weakening America. But that’s just election year rhetoric, partisan prerequisites, senseless soundbites–not real analysis and thinking.

And as DuBois could see in 1956, there’s no real difference between the two parties. Bush bailed out banks; Obama bailed out auto manufacturers. Bush responded to 9/11 by taking us to war; Obama has continued the war. Bush didn’t put an end to abortion; Obama would multiply them. The differences are slight to non-existent. Both parties are destroying America because both parties live, not for America, but for the party.

Is this despair talking? Some might think so. Apparently DuBois faced the same criticism. He answered it head on and eloquently:

Is the refusal to vote in this phony election a counsel of despair? No, it is dogged hope. It is hope that if twenty-five million voters refrain from voting in 1956 because of their own accord and not because of a sly wink from Khrushchev, this might make the American people ask how much longer this dumb farce can proceed without even a whimper of protest. Yet if we protest, off the nation goes to Russia and China. Fifty-five American ministers and philanthropists are asking the Soviet Union “to face manfully the doubts and promptings of their conscience.” Can not these do-gooders face their own consciences? Can they not see that American culture is rotting away: our honesty, our human sympathy; our literature, save what we import from abroad? Our only “review” of literature has wisely dropped “literature” from its name. Our manners are gone and the one thing we want is to be rich–to show off. Success is measured by income. University education is for income, not culture, and is partially supported by private industry. We are not training poets or musicians, but atomic engineers. Business is built on successful lying called advertising. We want money in vast amount, no matter how we get it. So we have it, and what then?

Is the answer the election of 1956? We can make a sick man President and set him to a job which would strain a man in robust health. So he dies, and what do we get to lead us? With Stevenson and Nixon, with Eisenhower and Eastland, we remain in the same mess. I will be no party to it and that will make little difference. You will take large part and bravely march to the polls, and that also will make no difference. Stop running Russia and giving Chinese advice when we cannot rule ourselves decently. Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln,and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let’s vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.

Those last lines are quite remarkable, are they not? Pundits tell us that third parties have no chance, and the vast majority of voters believe them, not stopping to think that they arethe vast majority. Like mindless cattle herded to slaughter, the majority simply shuffle along cooperatively to their own execution. There are two lines that lead to slaughter, one labeled “D” and the other “R”. Would that cattle could read and see the future! Would that cattle would only sell their votes for integrity and principle, not for platform and party politics!I am sometimes asked, “Who are you voting for?” I can hear the questioner’s curiosity, driven by the dissonance of my black skin and my conservative evangelical belief. Will it be “race” or theology that tips his heart at the polls? Which is the truer self? I never answer the question, but I do appreciate the tension that prompts it. It’s a tension that serious African-American Christians feel. But, I’m actually with DuBois. And I’m glad for his article, because it simultaneously demonstrates (a) that it’s no betrayal to either African-American history or an incumbent African-American president to follow one’s individual conscience against the cultural tide and (b) that blind loyalty to either party makes little sense when you can hardly slide a sheet of paper between the two. A vote for the “lesser evil” is still a vote for evil. I can’t make that vote. I know there are no perfect candidates, but I do know there are perfect principles. And neither party or candidate stands for them. I’m not moved by the harangues of a Sharpton or Jackson for not voting. Neither of those men could carry DuBois’ books.

I would never presume to tell others how to exercise their conscience on this matter. I would simply ask, as DuBois did, “Why are you voting the way you are?” Unless something dramatic happens in the following weeks, something far more substantive than tonight’s over-scripted debate, I’m “voting” by not voting. To quote Luther: “My conscience is held captive by the Word of God. And to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.”

Piper in 2007: Tattoos 30 Years from Now

I have been trying to work through body tats theologically. While doing so, I ran across a small line from John Piper: “Thirty years from now today’s tattoos will not be marks of freedom, but indelible reminders of conformity.” The full quote is part of the article below:

Christ Suffered and Died to Deliver Us from the Present Evil

Galatians 1:4

[He] gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.

Until we die, or until Christ returns to establish his kingdom, we live in “the present evil age.” Therefore, when the Bible says that Christ gave himself “to deliver us from the present evil age,” it does not mean that he will take us out of the world, but that he will deliver us from the power of the evil in it. Jesus prayed for us like this: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

The reason Jesus prays for deliverance from “the evil one” is that “this present evil age” is the age when Satan is given freedom to deceive and destroy. The Bible says, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). This “evil one” is called “the god of this world” and his main aim is blinding people to truth. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Until we waken to our darkened spiritual condition, we live in sync with “the present evil age” and the ruler of it. “You once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Without knowing it, we were lackeys of the devil. What felt like freedom was bondage. The Bible speaks straight to 21st century fads, fun, and addictions when it says, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19).

The resounding cry of freedom in the Bible is: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). In other words, be free! Don’t be duped by the gurus of the age. They are here today and gone tomorrow. One enslaving fad follows another. Thirty years from now today’s tattoos will not be marks of freedom, but indelible reminders of conformity.

The wisdom of this age is folly in view of eternity. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. . . . The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 3:18-191:18). What then is the wisdom of God in this age? It is the great liberating death of Jesus Christ. The early followers of Jesus said, “We preach Christ crucified . . . the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

When Christ went to the cross he set millions of captives free. He unmasked the devil’s fraud and broke his power. That’s what he meant on the eve of his crucifixion when he said, “Now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Don’t follow a defeated foe. Follow Christ. It is costly. You will be an exile in this age. But you will be free.


© 2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.


Also, you can hear Piper give more thoughts about tattoos at a podcast on the topic.