It’s Not Easy Being Black

After giving this article the title, “It’s Not Easy Being Black,” the first thing I’d better say is, I’m white. My ancestors are from Scotland, Ireland, England, and Holland. So, I have no experience with being black. And yet, after sixty-two years on this planet, I do have a few observations about life, and one of them is this: it’s not easy being black in America.

Today I posted this observation on Facebook. “It’s not easy being black in America.”

Before I clicked to apply the post, I already knew what the reactions would be. Some posted their reactions, most didn’t – but I know what the whole range of responses was. Some people nodded their heads sadly and agreed. Some people shook their heads and said, “Why does Bob post stuff like that?” Some people said, “How would Bob know? He’s not black. Why doesn’t he stick to topics he can speak about with real knowledge and experience?” Some people said, “Oh, great. There’s a white guy who thinks he’s helping us all by expressing sympathy, but what he says doesn’t change one little thing. Maybe his conscience feels better.” Some people said, “Well, it’s not easy being me, either. What about my problems? Why single out one group? There are lots of us with problems.”

Yes. You’re right. There are lots of us with problems.

And yet, there is a reason, right now, in America, why a white person (that would be me) needs to write a public article pointing out the obvious. There is a reason to single out one group out of all the groups with problems. There is a compelling moral need, right now, to talk about the specific problem, the painful reality, of being black in America.

It’s like this.

It’s hard to be fat.
But it’s harder to be fat and black.

It’s hard to be old.
But it’s harder to be old and black.

It’s hard to be female.
But it’s harder to be female and black.

It’s hard to be autistic.
But it’s harder to be autistic and black.

It’s hard to be poor.
But it’s harder to be poor and black.

It’s hard to be LGBT.
But it’s harder to be LGBT and black.

It’s hard to be unemployed.
But it’s harder to be unemployed and black.

It’s hard to be uneducated.
But it’s harder to be uneducated and black.

It’s hard to have cancer.
But it’s harder to have cancer and be black.

Honestly, I don’t know if I would be successful as a black. And by successful, I mean doing what I’m doing now – faithfully following Jesus, my Lord. I know that I would be severely tempted to fall into one of two traps.

Trap #1: On the one hand, it’s possible that I might just give up. The struggle might be too much for me. I might become a silent failure, sinking as deeply as possible into the dark background of America, rarely seen, rarely heard. My defeat, my resignation, would have logical and predictable outcomes. If I gave up, I would spend a lot of time being unemployed, receiving whatever handouts I could get from the government or individuals. I might console myself, numb the pain, and forget my problems, by turning to alcohol, drugs, or both.

Trap #2: On the other hand, there is that part of me that has learned to stand up for myself, to fight, to flail my arms wildly against all attackers, real or imaginary. There is something in me that says, “I would rather be punished for fighting back than sit quietly and accept mistreatment that I don’t deserve. If anyone is going to hurt me, by golly, I’ll give them a reason!” I can see myself becoming violent, bitter, full of fomenting hatred, ready to explode every time the smallest spark ignites my short, fast, fuse.

I stand in awe of the sheer nobility that I see in many black people. They are the ones who avoid the two extremes that I fear would grip me. They are the blacks who are simply, plainly, kind to me. I don’t mean quietly subservient. I mean genuinely nice. These are the blacks who extend their warm friendship to me from the moment of first meeting, before they know how their friendship will be received. These are the blacks who take a chance, with every new encounter, even several times a day, choosing to initiate their interactions with every new person they meet with a positive regard and with an optimism about the relationship that might develop.

I’m not sure I’m that strong.

But I’ll do what I can. I’ll follow Jesus, and I’ll regard you as Jesus regards you, no matter who you are. And I’ll speak. I’ll speak out, because Jesus speaks out. I’ll speak, because silence in the face of evil, is evil.

–Bob Young
[8/14/2017]

Bob has a few books available at Amazon. You should buy one!
Books by Bob Young
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Publicly Reject White Supremacy

There’s a difference between calling yourself a Christian and actually following Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, “Be a Christian;” he said, “Follow me.” Many terrible, evil things have been done by Christians, but that’s not to say they were following Jesus.

Nazis And Christianity

“Some Nazis, such as Hans Kerrl, who served as Hitler’s Minister for Church Affairs pushed for ‘Positive Christianity’, which was a uniquely Nazi form which rejected its Jewish origins and the Old Testament, and portrayed ‘true’ Christianity as a fight against Jews.” (See Source 1)

“During the First and Second World Wars, German Protestant leaders used the writings of Luther to support the cause of German nationalism. On the 450th anniversary of Luther’s birth, which fell only a few months after the Nazi Party began its seizure of power in 1933, celebrations were conducted on a large scale by both the Protestant Churches and the Nazi Party. At a celebration in Königsberg, Erich Koch, at that time the Gauleiter of East Prussia, made a speech in which he, among other things, compared Adolf Hitler with Martin Luther and claimed that the Nazis fought with Luther’s spirit.” (See Source 2)

The majority of historians believe that Hitler was not a Christian, but he had no qualms about using Christianity to further his aims. “Hitler publicly claimed he believed in Christianity and an active God, and in one speech, he stated that he held Jesus in high esteem as an ‘Aryan fighter’ who struggled against Jewry and Jewish materialism.” (See Source 3)

Ku Klux Klan And Christianity

The KKK has presented itself as a Christian organization, adopting the symbolism, language, and rituals of Christian churches.

“Additionally, the cross was henceforth a representation of the Klan’s Christian message.” (See Source 4)

“Although members of the KKK swear to uphold Christian morality, virtually every Christian denomination has officially denounced the KKK.” (See Source 5)

Summary

The activists who endorse the beliefs, philosophies, and policies of the Nazis and/or the Ku Klux Klan do not follow Jesus. They may lie by calling themselves Christians, but they are not Christ-like. Supporting or endorsing these groups in any way, including silent acquiescence, is a rejection of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

–Bob Young
8/12/2017

Want more by this author? Currently, he has four books on Amazon.
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Source 1: Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–51.

Source 2: Wikipedia article: Religion_in_Nazi_Germany, which cites several sources.

Source 3: Wikipedia article: Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler, which cites several sources.

Source 4: Wade, Wyn Craig (1998). The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-19-512357-9.

Source 5: Perlmutter, Philip (January 1, 1999). Legacy of Hate: A Short History of Ethnic, Religious, and Racial Prejudice in America. M.E. Sharpe. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7656-0406-4.

The Walking Dead

We build walls and fences to protect ourselves. People can cause us so much harm, and it doesn’t seem to matter if we love them or not. In fact, it doesn’t even seem to matter if they love us – because love can falter and grow cold. Yesterday’s lover is today’s tormentor. And so we build fences. We declare, “Yesterday’s lover may be my tormentor today, but I’ll not have tomorrow’s tormentor. No one else is allowed into my heart, ever.”

The decision to build a fence around your heart may not have its origin in a failed romance. Maybe it started when you were ostracized or ridiculed or bullied at school. Maybe it started earlier than that – sometimes, even our parents, poorly equipped for parenting, damage us and cause us to withdraw into a shell that we mistakenly believe brings comfort. The comfort of the fence, wall, or shell is a false comfort, though. It’s only comforting because of our sense of hopelessness, because of our conviction that no relationship can ever be worth the risk of repeating the pain of the past.

But let me try to explain what the fence really does…

A friend of mine shared some pictures he took of an old cemetery from the nineteenth century. Some of the gravestones are surrounded by fences. I was struck by one picture in particular, which shows a closeup of two gravestones inside a black wrought iron fence.

Here’s what I immediately noticed:

The fence was designed to keep people out, but it did nothing to keep out the weeds.

“Only the Trees Remember” by KD Musick

This is what happens when you build a fence around your heart. You keep people out, yes. But, the weeds still grow. Saddest of all? Your fence keeps out anyone who might help you pull the weeds. If you can’t pull the weeds yourself (and there are weeds in your heart that you cannot uproot), then the weeds will grow, and grow, and grow some more.

Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
(Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60)

Jesus knew that sometimes there is little difference between the living and the dead. Maybe you know, it, too, from personal pain. Maybe your inner dying is a secret you never share.

Friend, Jesus knows betrayal. He knows pain. He knows what it is to have love repaid with hatred, to have healing repaid with injury, to have generosity repaid with – nothing! – instead, the ones to whom he gave only took the more.

Jesus shows us how to respond. Like Jesus, open your arms wide. Continue to love. When rejected, he went to the next town, and the next, and the next, and tried again to build relationships, to give love away, to make a profound and lasting difference in the lives others. Jesus doesn’t give up on the ones who hurt him. He hasn’t given up on me, and he hasn’t given up on you.

Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:37)

Friend, don’t stay there. Don’t stay there, inside the fence, dead, fertilizing the weeds with your decaying heart. Jesus invites you to live again, to tear down the fence, to love again.

–Bob Young
[8/6/2017]

Did you like reading this? Then why not buy one of my books? (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young
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A Prayer About Guilt At The Death Of A Loved One

Father,

How did we learn about mercy? Was it not from you?
How did we learn about grace? Did not you teach us?
Where did we learn to forgive? Was it not from your example?
And tenderness – did we not hear it first from your lips?

But we have heard other voices, too, Father. We have often heard voices of condemnation. We know that all such voices come from Satan, the accuser of the brethren, but still, we have heard them, many times!

In fact, Lord, we have heard the voices of condemnation so often that we find ourselves repeating their words with our own lips, with our own thoughts, from our own heart.

We cannot forgive ourselves. We try, sort of – but the truth is, we don’t even know how. How can we forgive ourselves when we know, so intimately, so personally, what we have done?

We know our own thoughts.
We know our own bitterness.
We know our own anger, and hatred, and malice.
We try to justify ourselves. We can explain the reasons
we did what we did,
said what we said,
thought what we thought.

And so, we feel guilt, because we really did those things, said those things, thought those things.

This is the load that my friend bears right now. She has no idea – no idea, Father – how she will bear this load.

Her father has died, and their relationship was not what she wanted it to be.

Some of the stories have been told, and will be told. But other stories – no. They’ll never be told.

Oh, the pain! What words can describe this, when even a shrieking wail in the dark is inadequate to express it fully?

Words fail. But the pain doesn’t fail. It’s real, and the scars prove it.

But he’s dead! What now?

Before, there was always a glimmer of hope, some tiny possibility, that relationships would be restored. Confession, repentance, forgiveness. Tears of remorse for years lost, and a healing embrace.

But, not now. The moment is gone and the time is past.

What remains? Guilt. And she has learned what we all learn – that she can’t forgive herself.

Forgiveness comes from you, Father. Only you can forgive.

Father, I’m asking you to make the space and the place for my friend to spend time with you – a space in her schedule, and a place where she can meet with you alone. I’m asking you to give her the clarity of mind to speak to you about each thing she feels guilty about. And, for each thing she brings before you, Father, let her hear your voice: “I forgive you!”

Let her feel your mercy: “You are forgiven!”
Let her comprehend your grace: “You are forgiven!”
Let her believe your truth: “You are forgiven!”

I intercede now for my friend, your child, this hurting one who needs your touch, your reassurance, your tangible expression of love. Take away her guilt, Father. Turn her heart and eyes around so that she looks forward, and not back.

Amen.

–Bob Young
[7/22/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

A Prayer Against Loneliness

“A looking out o’window, Sunshine”
by Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema

Father,

We are in awe of the way you view time. “One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

You created time.
You are throughout time.
You are throughout time, but you are also outside of time.
You are above time, and below time.
You move through time, and watch time move past you.
You are eternal, and our mortal time is but a breath.

Yet you care for us! Our fleeting moment is important to you! We are important to you!

We are in awe.

As mortals, we sometimes catch a glimpse of how you view time. Sometimes, the hours and days go quickly for us. Other times, the seconds and minutes drag on, slowly – oh, so slowly!

And time is never so slow, Father, as when we are alone.

This is one child’s burden, now.

Loneliness.
The time drags,
the ache is sustained.
Hope wanes, and
despair looms large.

And so, now, I come to you, Father, on behalf of this child of yours, this lonely one.

Departures.
Some, because of broken relationships.
Some, because of growth and new beginnings.

But, this one – this child of yours is still here, still before you.

I ask for three blessings for your lonely child, Father.

First, I ask that you will be close. I ask that your presence will be known, felt, seen, heard – waking and sleeping, alone and in crowded places, in the home and in the marketplace – be that friend, that oh-so-close friend, to your lonely child!

And the second blessing, Father –

Provide mortal friends! Bring new loved ones, new relationships!

Move your child out of the sometimes comforting security of solitude and onto the precarious precipice, the cliff-zone, of love and friendship.

And the third blessing, Father –

Make this one brave!

Give your child the heart of a servant, to reach out first, to be a friend first, to create love by being love – just as you have done.

Let the example of your son, Jesus, be the water of life, the well-spring of courage, the source of hope and love and relationship, for your lonely child.

Help your lonely child leave the depths of loneliness and rise to the heights of closeness – to you, and to others.

In Jesus’ name I ask these favors, Amen.

–Bob Young
[7/22/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Hearing The Still, Small Voice

Praying Hands by Otto Greiner (1869-1916)

There is no condemnation in not hearing God’s voice. Society – and often, even the church – discourage us from acknowledging his still, small voice. And yet, when you stop to think about it, you realize that the Bible has always revealed that conversation with our creator is what God himself intended. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:9:

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

God’s question is shown in its larger setting by including the previous verse with it:

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
(Genesis 3:8-9, ESV)

This is God’s plan. To walk with you and talk with you.

Some will tell you, “Yes, but that was before the fall.”

Instead of listening to them, listen to Jesus. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants,… but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15, ESV)

Or, if you prefer, listen to the Apostle Paul: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (II Corinthians 5:18, ESV)

Do we live after the fall? Yes, but also after the reconciliation.

James puts it this way: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

So, why do we have so much trouble hearing God speak? Why does even the church, all too often, discourage us from believing we have heard God? Oh, there are crackpots! Miscreants! Deceivers! There are those who would say, “God told me to do this or that,” and they bring harm to others or their own self-destruction. There are false prophets! And, indeed, we are told by Jesus, James, John, Peter, and Paul that there will be many false prophets – not just a few.

Satan uses this fear against us: “Since we can hear the wrong voice, it’s safer to hear no voice at all.”

No. No, it’s not. To not hear God speak is the most dangerous path of all.

Because God loves you so much, the words that he speaks to you will be words of comfort, encouragement, wisdom, and strength. You will be the better for hearing him. And – this is wonderful – the people you come in contact with will also be the better for it. When you listen to God, and boldly accept his words to you, then you have a powerful and profound and lasting impact on the lives of those around you.

You are in a garden, filled with life, and God is calling out to you.

Don’t be afraid. The Lord is with you.

–Bob Young
9 July, 2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

A Christian Approach To Coping With Emotional Pain

“Psychologically, nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the one person you thought would never let you down.” I saw this post on Tumblr today (psych2go, if you’re interested in the source). That’s got to be really painful, but I’m not sure I completely agree that nothing hurts more. The death of a child. The loss of a limb. Accidental blindness. These agonizing events are all pretty powerful contenders for the title, “Hurts the Most.”

You’ll have no trouble getting me to agree with this: there’s a lot of pain out there. Some of it strikes home, pretty hard. When it’s not out there, but in here. When it’s personal, it hurts, and nothing else is like it.

If you’ve read much of my stuff, you know that I’m pretty big on following Jesus. I’m not talking about religious ceremony or church attendance. I’m talking about reading Jesus’ words, and then actually using what he says as a guide for your own life.*

So, today I’m thinking a lot about emotional pain, because I’ve had several conversations with friends in the last few days who are going through quite a lot. I think it might be helpful to write a brief summary of some of the things that Jesus taught about coping with pain. Here. Try these ideas. You might get some much needed relief.

  1. Shout it out. Express the agony. Don’t hold it in.

Mark describes Jesus death on the cross like this:

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. (Mark 15:34-37, ESV)

Being strong is overrated. Being real is a lot better. Jesus was real. He didn’t feel any sense of obligation to “die a noble death.” Don’t get me wrong. His death was noble. The noblest. But he didn’t try to hide his sense of aloneness, of utter betrayal, of pain, of loss. His purpose, for me, would be less believable if he wasn’t so… so… genuine.

  1. Surround yourself with friends.

Jesus knew he was going to die. He knew that on that very night he was going to be betrayed, and imprisoned, and tortured. Instead of choosing solitude, he found comfort in companionship. He ate his last supper, and instituted the Lord’s Supper, with friends. He went to the garden with friends. He waited for his betrayer with friends. He remained with friends until he was no longer able to be with friends. Those friends, of course, ran away and left him when the soldiers came. They felt guilty about it later, but Jesus knew ahead of time that it would be that way. He forgave them. My point here is that Jesus didn’t want to be alone. You see, there’s comfort in the presence of friends, even when they can’t do a single thing to change your circumstances. Your friends’ presence is, in itself, a sort of pain reliever.

  1. Forgive.

Jesus was on the cross, in crazy pain, betrayed and abandoned, alone in a crowd. And what did he say?

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34, ESV)

Yes, we can make the logical argument: “Oh, they knew what they were doing, alright! The soldier knew he was holding a nail, and he knew he was swinging a hammer, and he knew Jesus was screaming! He knew. They all knew!”

But Jesus – (how many times has that phrase brought me up short? “But Jesus!…”) but Jesus knows that there’s more than one kind of knowing.

I’m going to tell you a strange truth, an amazing truth. If you believe me when I tell you, it’s because of the power of the Holy Spirit to confirm my words (even if you believe me without believing in him). So, here’s a strange and amazing truth: those nails in your hands, in your feet, in your broken, bleeding heart – those nails hurt you less if you forgive the hammer-wielder. This is from God. It’s a spiritual truth, beyond human understanding.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. Three things. Three things that will help you deal with the greatest pain you have ever felt in your life. (1) Don’t hold in your pain. Express it. (2) Surround yourself with friends. Don’t isolate yourself. (3) Forgive.

Prayer

Father, let this Reader, right now, find some easing of the pain in your presence, in your friendship. Amen.

–Bob Young
[6/28/2017]

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

*In case you were wondering, yes, following Jesus is more than just a philosophy for me. I’m on board with the Nicene Creed, for example. Nevertheless, if you can’t, at this time, accept the spiritual dimension of Jesus’ identity, I will still encourage you to follow Jesus’ teachings and way of life. He makes sense, Friend. He makes sense.

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