Mercilessness

Theatre V – Red Racial Dozen

(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

This is the second of 12 chapters which might be thought of as the “Red Racial Dozen.”  Each chapter is based on a single nugget straight from Jesus.  While the Red Racial Dozen doesn’t nearly cover all racial issues, it should give us a taste of the mountains we can move if we will simply commit to resisting and then crushing red-word deficiency by memorizing, internalizing and exercising the RED WORDS!

Of all the evil spirits fighting against us in the War on RD—let’s call them demons for brevity’s sake—there is none busier than the demon of mercilessness.  Nor is there one more popular among the other demons.  Mercilessness seems to be everywhere, and it loves to collaborate with all the other demons of dissonance.

Whenever a person falls, it is the job of Mercilessness to maximize the fallout.  And at the rate we humans fall, Mercilessness is always swamped with work.

While many demons must work on the sly, Mercilessness can and does operate right out in the open.  He can be slick when a case calls for it, but what he loves most is to get right up in Jesus’ face.  Jesus, of course, is very big on mercy, so it’s always a thrill for Mercilessness to kick a person who’s down and thereby rub Jesus’ nose in it, which of course Jesus endures because he is patiently waiting for us to cooperate with him.  Jesus says   “I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Mt. 9:13)” but Mercilessness says, “Burn, baby, burn!”

Working with other demons such as Fear, Jealousy, Insecurity, Greed, Immaturity and Groupthink, Mercilessness can enter us in a single heartbeat and, having once entered us (at our invitation, by the way, because no demon can do anything to us without our consent), stay forever unless forcefully shown the exit door.

It is the job of all demons to steal, kill and destroy (Jn. 10:10), but few have done more killing, stealing and destroying than Mercilessness.  Here are just a few highlights from his list of accomplishments:

  • Millions of marriages ransacked and ruined
  • Almost five million ex-offenders—the equivalent of an entire metro area the size of Atlanta or Minneapolis—virtually unemployable and without hope
  • Countless longstanding family feuds and interpersonal “cold wars”
  • An endless array of racial attitudes, prejudices and suspicions

Jesus went to considerable trouble to warn us against Mercilessness and to teach us how to counteract it.  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” he said.  By “sacrifice,” of course, he meant mercilessness in all its forms and disguises.  That Mercilessness can operate so widely and so freely among a people—Christians—that has been so thoroughly cautioned against it is one of the great curiosities in the Christian realm.

The thing that makes Mercilessness so pervasive and popular is that it’s so easy.  It requires little effort.  In fact, it requires so little effort that you might say we come by it naturally.

Mercilessness is a parasitic demon; it always enters on the back of another demon.  Take anger for instance.  Wherever Anger goes, Mercilessness rides along.  And wherever Anger has been, Mercilessness tries to stay.  In a sense it clones itself, riding along with Anger to its next stop and staying behind at Anger’s previous stop.

If we think of the demons of racial dissonance as a large marketing firm, it’s easy to see that one demon—Anger in this example—provides the “leads,” and Mercilessness closes the deals.  While we’re focused on the “lead” demon, Mercilessness is setting up shop.  While we’re taking the lead demon captive and marching it to its jail cell as we should (2 Co. 10:5), Mercilessness is working our blind side and setting up its next sucker punch.

Mercy sounds like the opposite of Mercilessness, but simply replacing Mercilessness with mercy does not have much healing effect.  Mercy, in and of itself, can do little to offset Mercilessness.  Not kicking someone who’s down is mercy, but mercy doesn’t pick that person back up.  Not punishing someone who’s trespassed against us is mercy, but mercy doesn’t restore that person and clear his conscience.  In this sense, mercy is of limited use as a weapon but is of great value as a fuel.

In physical wars fuel is vital.  It powers planes, trains, trucks, locomotives, ships and factories.  In spiritual wars, fuel is equally vital.  It can power such mighty weapons as forgiveness, compassion, accountability, generosity and—deadliest of all to the enemy—sustained cooperation.

Mercy is fuel.  Left unspent, it’s not much use to us nor much of a threat to dissonance.  Ah, but spent wisely, spent for its intended purpose, it can be devastating to dissonance.

Mercy fuels compassion and compassion then fuels forgiveness.  Forgiveness, in turn, fuels reconciliation and generosity, and reconciliation and generosity fuel sustained cooperation.  Mercy is the “starter fuel,” like the first stage of a rocket, and ultimately mercy will fuel the entire War on RD.

Why did Jesus say, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice?”  Why did Jesus repeat it over and over?  Because Jesus knows—and wants us to know and act accordingly—that if mercy ever really catches on among Christians, the enemy is toast and we’ll be the ones chanting, “Burn, baby, burn!”

Yes, you can try this at home.  And thank you, Jesus!

Red Racial Nugget #2:  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Mt. 9:13).”

Be street smart yet harmless.  Peace.

When Is Then

Theatre III – Code Red Christianity

(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you _________.”  Almost everyone can correctly fill in that blank, but not so many know the answer to the follow-up question:  When, exactly, is “then?”

According to Jesus, freedom comes with knowing the truth (Jn. 8:32).  Freedom from racial dissonance will thus begin to be realized as more and more people embrace the truth about racial dissonance.  But when will we know the truth?  Jesus says, “then you will know the truth.” So again, the question becomes, “When, exactly, is “then?”

To answer this question we must back up one small step.  Starting in John 8:31 we read, “To the Jews who believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth…”

So then, believing Jesus will not set us free.  Believing in Jesus will not set us free.  Only being disciples (followers) of Jesus will set us free, and we become disciples of Jesus—Basic Christians—by holding to Jesus’ teachings.  So—tada!—“then” is when we actually do what Jesus tells us to do.  “Then” is when we become Christians who hold to the red words.

This is not wordplay.  This is not me trying to be cute or clever.  This is fundamental.  This is the key to freedom from bondage of every kind, including the bondage of racial dissonance:  In order to be set free we must hold to Jesus’ teachings.  We must be Basic Christians.

Now that we know when “then” is, we must concede the obvious:  Being set free is not a one-time event, it’s a process.  Just as some food and drinks are an acquired taste, freedom is an acquired condition.  The more of Jesus’ teachings (red words) we know, the more we have to hold onto, and the more we hold onto, the weaker the grip of bondage.  This is simple, spiritual physics.

When it comes to racial dissonance nobody, has all the answers because nobody has been set totally free by perfect cooperation with Jesus.  Nobody includes you, me, black leaders, white leaders, Caesar, everybody.

This chapter is the first of the Red Racial Dozen, one of the 12 chapters focused on nuggets straight from Jesus.  This chapter and its companions make up a sort of “starter set” to combat Red Word Deficiency and to be used against the darkness of RD.

At the back of this book you’ll find an additional 99 red-word nuggets without commentary.  Coupled with the Red Racial Dozen, that makes a total of 111 nuggets being served to you on a silver platter.  May I suggest that, whatever your age, that you make it your business to memorize, internalize and exercise one Red Nugget for every year you’ve been alive?  If you’re 30, have at least 30 nuggets locked and loaded.  If you’re 92, have 92 nuggets in the chamber.  If you’re 112, get into the Bible and find an extra nugget to go along with the 111 you already have!

Racial Dissonance is darkness, and darkness can’t be scooped away.  It can only be driven out by light.  Jesus’ teachings are light, and they are thus our only effective weapons against the darkness of RD.  Each time we learn and hold onto another of Jesus’ teachings on race, we acquire another “flashlight,” another weapon that can be trained upon another dark hiding place of racial dissonance. Continue reading

Code Red (Basic) Christianity

Theatre III – Code Red Christianity

At the beginning of this book you were invited to brace yourself, a challenge similar to the one God issued to Job: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you will answer me.”  If you’re white, you braced yourself through the whole Cocoonianity Theatre, and you made it!  If you’re black, you braced yourself through the whole Fatherless Theatre, and you made it!

Congratulations.  By making it this far you’ve endured some serious soul-searching and passed the “weed-out” courses.  More exciting and more important, you’ve proven that you have the Right Stuff to fight and win the War on Racial Dissonance.  You have the Right Stuff to tackle the third, final and most important non-negotiable of the War on RD.  You have the Right Stuff to help resist—and then crush–Red Word Deficiency.

And just what is the right stuff?  The right stuff is Basic Christianity.  You may already be a Basic Christian but if you’re not, the very fact that you’re made it through the weed-out-theatres—Cocoonianity and Fatherlessness—proves that you can become a Basic Christian just by making one simple choice:  All you have to do is choose to be a Basic Christian.

And just what is a Basic Christian? The Basic Christian is not a Christian as the world defines it, nor as most Christians define it.  To the world, a Christian is anyone who believes in Jesus.  To Christians, a Christian is anyone who confesses and believes that Jesus is their ticket to heaven.  Neither definition captures the essence of the Basic Christian.

The Basic Christian is not a fundamentalist, which is to say that the Basic Christian does not profess to swallow every word of the Bible hook, line and sinker.  Nobody under high heaven—nor in heaven, for that matter—is a genuine fundamentalist.  How can we be certain of this?  Because the genuine fundamentalist has long since chopped off his hands and feet and plucked out his eye in accordance with Mark 9:43-47, and we know of no such person.  The Basic Christian, meantime, takes the Bible seriously, but that is not to say that he or she takes every word literally. Continue reading

Over-Mothered

Theatre IV – Black Fatherlessness

What happens when a culture becomes fatherless?  By default it become an over-mothered culture.  It experiences a surplus of nurture and a deficit of life-training.  It takes fewer risks than it would if Dad were there to say, “Go for it!”  It gets patted on the back too often and kicked in the pants too seldom, and so far we’re not even talking about race.

If you’re a single mom, the imbalance in your household is not your fault.  More than likely you’re a great mom and have gone far above and beyond the call of motherly duty to fill the void left by your children’s absent father.  Still, the very fact that Dad’s not in the picture has left things out of divine whack.  The goal of this chapter is to expose and discuss one important way in which we can begin to put things back in divine whack.

Now let’s talk about race.  Our goal in this difficult chapter is not a micro-goal but a macro-goal.  There is little to be gained by looking at one black, single mom but there is much to be gained by looking at eight million black, single moms.  These gains will be especially great if we keep in mind that while there are eight million black, single moms in the United States, there are only about three million black, married moms.

As a refresher, let’s recall the nugget that was introduced in chapter five:  “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Pr. 23:22).”

The implications of this nugget are clear and are illustrated time after time in the Bible:  The primary lessons a mother is expected to impart to her children are to be imparted when they are young, while the lessons Dad is supposed to teach are to be taught throughout the child’s life, right up until Dad steps out into eternity.  God’s plan calls for Mom to get a break after about 18 years and for Dad to keep on working forever.  Maybe that’s to make up for how easy he had it in the early years!

“Listen” is a present-tense activity.  We are supposed to listen to Dad when he speaks, every time he speaks.  “Forsake,” meanwhile, is to dismiss something that’s already in place.  We are not to forsake what Mom has already taught us because it is in place and forms much of our foundation.

For example, when I was a child my mom taught me over and over again that boredom is a form of criticism.  She has not reminded me of that teaching in over 40 years but I remember it.  I have not forsaken it.

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Imaginary Dad

Theatre IV – Black Fatherlessness

(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

If you’re a black man who grew up without a dad in your home, the time has come for me to ask you a huge favor.  It will take trust for you to grant me this favor, but I believe with all my heart that if you grant it, God will reward your faith and trust.  And He will not only reward you but He will reward many others through you.

The favor I’m asking of you is to forget about your race and my race and allow me to be your dad for just a few minutes.  Let me be your dad and let me share my heart with you.  Let me share with you the single most important lesson I have to share.

Now, if you agree to do me the favor of allowing me to serve as your dad for a few minutes, you’ll have to pretend a bit.  Here’s what you’ll have to pretend:

  • That you were conceived in love, not just lust.
  • That I wanted you to be born.
  • That I was in the room when you were born (and I almost fainted).
  • That on the day you were born I vowed to God that I would love you, protect you and bless you as long as I lived.
  • That I have made good on my vow so far. I have loved you every day, protected you every day and blessed you every day.
  • That you and I have had hundreds of talks. We’ve had so many talks that to you they’re a dime a dozen.  I’ve talked to you so much that you usually know what I’m going to say before I say it, so sometimes you don’t even listen.
  • That this is not one of those “dime-a-dozen” talks. This is a once-in-a-lifetime talk.  This is Dad’s best shot, right now, one and done!
  • (This one is going to be really hard to pretend)

That because of the way I have loved you, you see my love as even more reliable than your mom’s love. You absolutely, positively believe that I will never leave you or turn my back on you.  I am the person you can count on the most in this world. Continue reading

Let My Homies Go

Theatre IV – Black Fatherlessness

(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)

If you are anything other than a fatherless black man, there’s a kind of courage you’ll never have to muster up.  It’s the kind of courage that fatherless black men in this generation must have in order to win the War on RD.  We should salute the fatherless black man even before he has done his first courageous deed, because his is truly a tough row to hoe.

Upon the fatherless black man (FBM for short) of this generation rests a burden unlike any placed upon any other generation of men in history.  His time is up.  His time has come.  It is his time to break the multi-generational curse of rampant fatherlessness.  It is his time to fly in the face of a deeply ingrained cultural code.  It is his time to become a man unlike few men he has ever personally known.

Today’s FBM faces a challenge more difficult and more frightening than merely rolling a resting stone.  He must stand in the path of a huge, runaway boulder.  He must risk being steam-rolled, bring the boulder to a stop and then reverse its course. Today’s FBM is the new Indiana Jones, but unlike Indy, outrunning the boulder is not an option for him.  He must turn, face it and beat it.

The biggest challenge that the FBM faces as he considers the runaway boulder of fatherlessness is the siren call of Baby Daddy:  Baby Daddy is seducing young black men with the imitation, “Come!  Be like me.”  Baby Daddy lives in a relatively small, all-black world where conformity is a given, judgement by his peers is quick and absolute, and the penalty for non-compliance is severe.  Baby Daddy is a young black man, and he is always, subtly, recruiting other young black men to join the counterproductive ranks of Baby Daddyhood.

Mild non-compliance makes the FBM an Uncle Tom.  Serious non-compliance makes the FBM a b****.   Grievous non-compliance makes the FBM something even more un-mentionable.  There is no judge and no trial, just a hastily-formed jury of “peers” dishing out the standard penalty for non-compliance, and that penalty is ostracism.

Ostracism is the modern equivalent of being put “outside the camp” or “outside the synagogue.”  It is the forfeiture of one’s place in the universe.  It is the severance of emotional security.  It is desolation.  More than almost any other fear, the FBM fears ostracism by his peers because many times his reality is that the approval of his peers is all he has.

Fortunately for all of us, the FBM has a great role model to help him overcome his fear of being put outside the camp.  That role model is the first-century Jew who chose to follow Jesus.

We forget how great was the dread of ostracism among the Jews of Jesus’ time.  It was so great that when Jesus gave sight to a blind Jewish man, the man’s own mom and dad were afraid to give Jesus public praise (Jn. 9:21).  It was so great that even one of our heroes in the faith, the apostle Peter, gave in to it for a season.

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