As I write this, the blockbuster movie of 2018 thus far is Black Panther, the Marvel Studios film adaptation of the comic book superhero of color first introduced in 1966 by, ironically, two white men, then writer-editor Stan Lee and writer- artist Jack Kirby. Created at the height of the 1960s civil rights movement, T’Challa, the king of the fictitious African nation of Wakanda and the Black Panther’s alter-ego, was the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comic books, and Marvel named him “Black Panther” months before the Black Panther Party was established in October 1966.
I love Christmas music and I’ve been playing it a little earlier each year, much to the chagrin of family and friends, because I want to hasten the arrival of my favorite time of the year. Of all the Christmas carols, Silent Night is a perennial favorite with its peaceful and tender account of the Savior’s birth.
It’s instructive to note, however, that the first Christmas, in fact, broke the silence that had blanketed ancient Israel for about 400 years.
Edward McMillan was a hustler. His hustle, however, wasn’t basketball, it was drugs. For fifteen years, he was the leader of a successful drug ring in Lynchburg called, The Corleognes. He would tell you that selling drugs wasn’t the life he had imagined living, but it became the life he couldn’t imagine living without.
"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” ~ John 7:24
As the son of an Air Force veteran who traveled the world, I was shaped by my environment, growing up in a heterogeneous community at a time when such a thing was a novel concept for most Americans. I had a deep love of books, which meant you were more likely to find me in the library during recess than on the playground, and English was one of my favorite subjects throughout my school years. As a result, I have no discernible accent and precise diction when I speak. Nothing unusual about that, right?
Kimberly would tell you that she has a blessed life, though her life has been far from easy. Growing up in the Bronx to a loving family gave her a wonderful foundation. Her father, who died when she was nine years old, imparted wisdom, compassion, and a strong work ethic that would shape her adult life.
When Kira came to Andy Flowers, she was desperate. Andy and his wife, Lori, first met Kira and her family when her daughter Aryonna became Lori's little sister through the Big Brother, Big Sister Program. Over the next six years a friendship developed between the two families. Because of this relationship, when Kira had a problem with her landlord she turned to the Flowers for help.
If I may get personal for a moment, I want to explain some things to you, gentle reader, about the passion that the Lord has placed on my heart to bring black and white Christians in America together to the table of grace.
I truly love people and harbor no hate in my heart toward anyone, so I have a broad network of friends and acquaintances of varying races, classes, creeds, political persuasions, and more. If we can have a civil conversation and respect one another, I'm likely to invite you into my circle.
This has led, however, to some interesting reactions to the posts, images and articles I share on the volatile topic of race.
As I write this, the governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville, Virginia, just an hour and 15 minutes up the road from Lynchburg, because of clashes between thousands of white nationalists, assembling to protest the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, and groups opposed to their presence and message. Not long after the governor's declaration, a car plowed into a crowd of peaceful protestors, and thus far one person is dead and several injured. The driver was chased down and arrested, but there is no other information on his motives or affiliation at this time.
Prior to this horrific act of cowardice, there were other outbreaks of violence, lawsuits and court injunctions and an eerie nighttime torchlight rally last night reminiscent of some of the darkest times in our world's history. It is episodes like this one that spur me on to the task God has placed on my heart, and while words are my only weapon, I pray that the Lord can take my offering and use it in a supernatural way to advance love and justice and repel evil.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, recently held its annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, and among the items of business addressed were various resolutions establishing the sense of the assembled participants on current issues. Unlike many denominations, the SBC believes in and stresses the autonomy of the local church, so these resolutions, although they may speak to the general sense of the denomination as a whole, are not necessarily reflective of a particular local congregation.
I experienced this first hand when we lived in Valrico, Florida, just outside of Tampa. My family and I were searching for a local church after moving to the area from a company assignment in Germany, and the first church we attended was very traditional in its presentation and style of worship. The church we eventually called home was dramatically different, with a large auditorium rather than an ornate church sanctuary, contemporary music and creative arts for worship, and a casually dressed pastor who oftentimes used pop culture to set themes for his sermon series. One would never have guessed that these two stylistically different churches, mere miles apart, were part of the same denomination.
Over the past year or so, the Southern Baptist Convention, perhaps more so than any other denomination, has found itself struggling internally over the questions raised by the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump. The issues raised by his rise to power date all the way back to 1998, when the SBC passed a “Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials" in the wake of President Bill Clinton’s infidelity with young intern Monica Lewinsky.
Note: These are the prepared remarks from which I gave my presentation on February 21, 2017 at Liberty University's Jerry Falwell Library in Lynchburg, Virginia as part of their Faculty Author Series.
In considering the title for this talk, some may think it’s far too soon to evaluate the post-Obama era. After all, it’s only a month and a day old!
With passions regarding the past eight years of the Obama presidency still high on both sides of the political aisle, it’s fair to assume that any verdict we render now will have the rough edges smoothed, or be thrown out altogether as time and distance bring hopefully greater objectivity and academic rigor to the study of his time in office.
That said, history, whatever its verdict, cannot take away the significance of Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the White House. Whether you wished him well or ill, he was the first black person to become president of the United States. As we observe Black History Month, his achievement is arguably the culmination of a tortured history between Americans of European and African descent dating back to 1526, when Spanish settlers brought, among others, a group of African slaves to establish and inhabit San Miguel de Guadalupe, the first European settlement on what is now the continental United States.