Balancing Act: Facing Reality about Racism and Still Maintaining Hope

Racism is alive and well in the United States. Those who were in denial about it before for one reason or another, must come to grips with this sobering reality post 2016 election. We have not progressed our way out of it as many have eagerly but ignorantly imagined. Nor have we come remotely close to dismantling it, in spite of all of our good, earnest efforts spanning generations. While political pundits analyze so many different components of the election results, all with varying and sometimes contradictory statements, one piece of truth that continues to bear out is that racism is the culprit laying at the root of the tree.

Let me be expressly clear about what I am and am not saying. I am not saying that one political party is racist and the other not. Both Republicans and Democrats embody deeply racist ideologies and both at times, can present policy platforms that appear to help vulnerable people while simultaneously screwing them over. And I am not saying that the other candidate was America’s salvation in any way – she represented more of the status quo way of doing things than any substantive change in either direction. And I am not saying that everyone who voted for the president-elect is necessarily racist, though I have some pointed questions for those who did. What I am saying is that the man who ran on a platform that was openly and explicitly crass towards African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and women – just to name a few – won. What I am saying is that the man who – without specifics – proposed building walls and banning people of a particular faith, just secured 304 electoral votes. What I am saying is that the man who received the endorsement of a known terrorist organization, is slated to become the next president of the United States. In just a few more days. God have mercy on us all!

To me this reaffirms this nation’s historic roots. In spite of all of the work that activists, faith leaders, community residents, academics, journalists, and even government allies have done over the last eight years – not to mention the work spanning hundreds of years which made the last eight years possible – racism is rearing its ugly head, insisting its pre-eminence and staking its claim on the United States’ soil, land, and air. Racism, the manner by which this country was built since it was stolen from American Indians, is here to stay. It is the only way that this country can survive – the entire nation’s economy, power, and way of being in the world exists only because racism exists. It is the nexus by which every other thing in this nation holds together.

Because it is the way of doing things in the United States, all of the effort that we put into uprooting this awful evil often seems to be ineffective. Sure, there may be short terms wins along the way evidenced through policy change and shifts in individual attitudes. But these wins, just as quickly as they come, can disappear when the political climate shifts, the economy fails, or when people simply grow tired of doing the right thing. When it is no longer expedient to do the right thing, when equity is no longer as appealing as it once was, when people forget all of the work that we have collectively put in to get us to this point, these wins – like voter rights and affirmative action – lose their effectiveness. They either lack enforcement metrics or laws change so that the metrics that secured equal rights are no longer valid as evidenced in the work to repeal Obamacare just this week.

It is very difficult to maintain hope in the face of such a reality. It’s not impossible, as with God all things are possible, but it is beyond challenging to keep imagining that liberation could actually be a tangible reality when this present-day system has endured for more than 500 years. Could this great imperialistic evil, that haunts our memories and threatens the future of our children and our children’s children – children who are increasingly of color as our nation’s demographics continue to change – come to an end so that we can all be free? Can we dismantle the spirit of white supremacy, that in the words of Toni Morrison causes people to do things that they otherwise would not do and abandon their sense of human dignity in the name of identity? “Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.” Is a reality beyond this current situation even plausible or are we merely deceiving ourselves?

Facesatthebottom2.jpgPermanence of Racism
I recently finished reading Derrick Bell’s ‘Faces at the Bottom of the Well.” Like December recently. I bought the book over a year ago and finally picked it up the week before the election. Perfect timing! Although it was written in 1992, I was struck by how relevant Bell’s analysis around the black experience was more than 20 years after he published the book.

One of the most compelling chapters in the book was the last one – the Space Traders. An allegory, it illustrated how in times of political and financial turmoil, black people are easily scapegoated for the nation’s problems while being simultaneously called on to fix the nation’s ills. In this particular story, visitors from another world visited the U.S. and promised the country financial resources, the means to clean up the climate, and other goods in exchange for its black citizens. Activists, journalists and other leaders representing different racial and religious backgrounds tried to make the moral case for denying the visitor’s offer. Business leaders also tried to make a financial case for resisting this great temptation, not in the name of morality but because of black citizen’s purchasing power. Some leaders who were worried about violating the constitution, even tried to make a legal case against the Space Trader’s offer.

In the end, politicians gave into their depraved lusts and took the visitor’s offer. They amended the constitution so that it was now legal, even honorable to exile a whole race of people – telling black citizens that they were now being enlisted in selective service to save the country. They shut down journalists who contradicted their narratives, published the names of Jewish leaders who were to secretly give black people refuge, and even published propaganda through religious leaders who could deceive their audiences into believing that this was the right thing. They even went as far as to criminalize and even kill blacks who tried to escape the country or who fought back. Nothing would keep them from securing the financial and material gain that could be theirs by turning over the country’s black citizens to God knows what fate met them ahead.

Fortunately, no visitors from outer space are coming to take any of us away! And still, the parallels between this allegory written more than 20 years ago and our present day reality are uncanny. While the sanctioned means of exploitation and oppression changes from generation to generation – slavery to convict leasing system to Jim Crow to mass incarceration to police brutality – the oppression of black people is part and parcel to this nation’s survival. And as the country becomes increasingly diverse the codified hatred of blacks has expanded to include everyone who is not white, and particularly, not a wealthy, white, able-bodied, heterosexual ‘Evangelical’ male.

Everyone outside of this narrow demographic has been blamed for the economic and social instability in our country, further proving that the struggle for human rights and survival is now a struggle shared by all of us – even the so-called disenfranchised whites who voted for him in the first place. Many of these – certainly not all – voted out of the desire to Make America Great Again. While the popular slogan never mentioned race, it was a dog-whistle that called out for days gone by when whites held more power.

But not all whites, let us remember that. Power, as much as it is divided along racial lines, is more greatly defined along economic ones. Race is not the foundation, the foundation is gross inequities and class divisions between wealthy whites and non wealthy whites. Race keeps those without resources from going after the wealthy, instead turning their attention to people of color of all economic classes. Race has been effective in warding off uprisings and political revolts as so commonly happened in Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries. And in order to hold on to economic power, the wealthy rally disenfranchised whites to put pressure on people of color. As Obama so eloquently stated in last week’s farewell speech, “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving (person of color), then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.”

If this is it, and this is all we have, and if policies that promoted human rights can be taken away with the stroke of a pen, and if it is so seemingly easy to incite people to turn on each other, what, pray tell, can we hope in? How do we keep ourselves from becoming filled with utter despair and sadness as we see history repeat itself right before our eyes? How do we keep marching forward and stay stedfast on the course of justice, truth and righteousness when others around us, even in the household of faith, have seemed to lose sight of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that is “about God’s saving love that wants to restore all of humanity to full communion.”

A Reason to Hope
Unfortunately, many people have cast off hope. After seeing generations of their ancestors struggle and fight for the same basic human decency in which we strive for today, some have given up on the idea that things could actually improve. The unbelief, which manifests itself in various forms including nihilism and atheism, comes from a place of deep despair and hopelessness as a result of the continual failure of the system to change. And who can blame those who embrace such ideologies? It is not for wantonness and debasement that these choose unbelief, but rather out of desperation and pain. Persistent despair causes people to surrender hope in exchange for something tangible, something real in order to face reality for what it is. As the Word of God affirms, hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.

Still, I believe. For me, hope does not equate to a sense of false optimism, but it is a hope that is painfully aware of the current reality and still utterly convinced that another reality is possible. Though it may come off as mere foolishness to some, I sincerely do believe that change is not only possible but is on its way. You see, evil always resists the hardest right before a cataclysmic shift in the spirit. Remember the stories of Moses and Jesus, and how the ruling powers of their day both tried to extinguish the chance of deliverance through genocide and oppression? Similarly, in our time, the national and global intensity of oppression in this moment has to cause us to ask what the Spirit of God is about to do in this moment. Though we are prone to tremble and fear, we still have to understand that there is so much taking place in the spiritual world that we cannot see with our natural eyes. As hard as we are fighting for the cause of justice in the natural, we can trust that God is moving things in the supernatural. If He wasn’t, if things truly were not changing, if that moral arc of the universe was not ever more bending towards justice, peace, and reconciliation, Satan would not be fighting so hard. Satan fights because he is fighting a losing battle – he will not win, God’s peace, truth, and righteousness will prevail!

In that vein, I also hope because of the imminent return of Christ. Deep in my heart, I believe He is coming back to restore all of humanity to Himself, each other, and the environment. All of the relationships that were destroyed as a result of disobedience will be repaired and we will finally enjoy the fullness of His presence. In that return, the systems of this world will fall. Every empire built on the backs of the disenfranchised will not only be called into account but will also be done away with. You see, if Jesus is Savior and LORD, there is no way that any of the rulers in this world can occupy that space. Even the most powerful dictator will have to face the fact that they are not in charge and will be held accountable for how they marginalized vulnerable populations for the sake of financial and political gain.

I also hope because there are so many people who are rallying for justice. People of different races, ethnicities and creeds. People of different income and educational levels. People within the nation’s boarders and without. People of different genders and sexual orientations. People of different abilities. People of all different shapes and sizes. People of different religions and faith expressions. Even people of different political ideologies. All of us, in spite of our differences, are pursuing justice. Because of our differences, we may not all take up the same approach but the point is, each of us with our gifts, skills, and abilities are doing what we can to usher in peace and justice, and stomp out evil and oppression. The sheer vastness of this coalition of folks also tells me that there are more people intent on securing righteousness than those bent on evil. Evil, at times, may seem to be more powerful. Because of its reach, we may even begin to feel that we are outnumbered. But let us remember the apostle Paul’s admonition to the early church who faced persecution under the Roman occupation, saying “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew! Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left and they are seeking my life!” 4 But what was the divine response to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal (Romans 11.2 – 4, NET).”

There are more of us than there are of them. Though those bent on evil may wield power and resources, we are mighty if we stand together under the common bond of love, mercy, justice, and reconciliation. As the words of the 1973 Chilean socialist movement declared, ‘El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido (The People United, Will Never Be Defeated)! If we stand united in purpose, even if our approaches and methodologies differ, we will not only be able to stand against the present day threat to our collective human rights, but we can stand against structural racism and capitalism that continues to devastate our beings and witness the unfolding of the kin-dom of God before our very eyes!

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Opportunity Gap? The Biggest Opportunity We Lack is The Opportunity to Live

Mixed race woman on urban rooftop
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We are all familiar with the gaps in access to opportunity that black Americans experience in education, housing, and employment. While these are important issues that need to be addressed, we also need to identify and name the biggest opportunity gap that black Americans face – that is, the opportunity to live and be fully human.

After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865, black Americans continued to find themselves oppressed and cut out of opportunity in a society that was committed to keeping slavery intact. Things such as the end of the Reconstruction Era, the convict leasing system, Jim Crow, and segregation all ensured that freed blacks would never be able to access the liberties that were afforded to their white Americans. Yet, in spite of the presence of these injustices, there has always been a vanguard charting a new way forward, imagining an American society where blacks were not discriminated because of the color of their skin.

The persistence and advocacy of leaders through the ages has certainly paid off. Indeed, it was the tireless, often life threatening work of abolitionists – both black and white alike – that essentially gave way to the nation ending slavery. Ida B Wells’ campaign to expose and document the horrors of lynching helped to significantly reduce its occurrence. And the advocacy and nonviolent resistence of leaders of the 1960s put many policies in place that secured civil rights for black Americans such as the  1965 Voting RIghts Act which gave black Americans unrestricted access to the voting booth. That same year, President Lyndon Johnson signed executive order 11246 which established non-discriminatory requirements for hiring and employment, meaning it was no longer legal to refuse to hire black Americans based on their race. The 1968 Fair Housing Act ensured that blacks would have greater access to housing opportunity by profiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental, or financing of housing. Just last month, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. the Inclusive Communities Project, the Supreme Court preserved disparate impact, a tool of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which ensures that people of color – as well as persons with disabilities, women, and same-sex couples – will not be discriminated against in housing.

All of these policies and more, have significantly contributed to the ability of black Americans to live better lives than before. If you don’t know, just ask a 80 year old woman who remembers the day her life was threatened because she dared to go to the polls. Such threats no longer exist! And yet, racial disparities remain just as intact. In fact, many of the gains that have been made through the Civil Rights legislation of the 60s are under constant attack and some, such as the Voting Rights Act, have been weakened altogether through individual state’s own version of a 21st century poll tax. In addition, in spite of the presence of these more equitable policies, people in power often find ways to ensure that they are not thoroughly implemented.

As a result, on nearly every indicator that is a measurement of success in the United States, black people seem to continuously lag behind. Homeownership in the black community is lower than that of white Americans. Black children, particularly young males, are falling behind in school. The PBS documentary ‘American Promise’ states that young black males are twice as likely as white boys to be held back in elementary school, three times as likely to be suspended from school and half as likely to graduate from college. While more black Americans are employed today than they were five years ago, they are more likely to be underemployed and earn lower wages than their white peers. The health status of black Americans is significantly worse than their white counterparts – indeed, black Americans are 1.5 times as likely to be obese and black women are about 60 percent more likely than white women to deliver babies early; black infants are 230 percent more likely to die before their turning one year old.

The million dollar question is why. Why, in spite of all of the good, hard work, on the part of many in this society, has racial disparities persisted as they have? Over the years foundations, nonprofits, government agencies, faith based leaders, activists, and average Americans have all fought to ensure that the daily reality of blacks in this country changes. And yet, in spite of the long hours, policies and initiatives, reports and think tanks, organizing and advocacy, the beast just stares back at us, unflinched and unchanged.

But maybe, just maybe, we have been attacking the wrong thing or a symptom of a deeper, more entrenched issue. In large part, much of our collective work has been aimed at civil rights and increasing economic opportunities for black Americans which is completely necessary. I shudder at the mere thought of what things would be in our society if these rights were not being in place. However, the underlying problem has never been that black Americans lacked the financial wherewithal to thrive in a capitalistic society. The problem, that has existed since the first African slaves arrived on our nation’s shores, is that black Americans have lacked the opportunity to be recognized as fully and completely human.

From the moment that America erected chattel slavery, white Americans needed a reason to justify its existence. Conflicted between their Christian beliefs which condemned the practice and the vast wealth they were gaining through stolen labor, on stolen land, they needed to come up with a rationale that not only permitted but encouraged slavery to exist. Gradually, certain laws and thinking began to give proponents of slavery the justification they were looking for, such as the Three Fifths Compromise of 1787. As the nation was establishing the constitution, southerners wanted to count slaves as part of their populace in order to get greater state representation in Congress. Northerners, however, did not think that slaves should be recognized as part of the population since they were property. The conflict gave way to counting only three fifths of every black person. While the resolution did not categorically state that blacks were not fully human, their perpetual designation as property instead of living souls, suggests that they were not regarded as such.

Building off of the classification of blacks as property in the constitution, the Dred Scott decision further solidified this perpetual state. Of the decision, Andrea Smith explains, “…Black peoples have the ontological status of property that derives from their origins in Africa, the property of Europe. Consequently, this ontological status does not change simply because one’s owner relinquishes his property rights. Black peoples remain property whether or not an individual owns them.” As property, black Americans had no rights to the legal system. More than 150 years later and this still holds true!

The work of Carl Von Linneaus also had a hand in minimizing the humanity of black Americans. Linneaus, a Swedish botanist and the father of taxonomy, developed a system for categorizing different organisms such as plants and animals. However, Linneaus also classified humans into four different categories – Americanus, Asiaticus, Africanus, and Europeanus – all which were based upon where they were geographically situated at first. However, later he interpreted these distinctions based on skin color, or race. Says the New World Encyclopedia of Linneaus’ methodology:

Among the numerous attributes he recognized, Native Americans were considered to be reddish, stubborn, merry, and angered easily; Africans were black, relaxed, crafty, and negligent; Asians were sallow, avaricious, and easily distracted; and Europeans were white, gentle, and inventive…He also divided them by how he thought they were governed: by customs, caprice, opinions, and laws. Linnaeus’s races were clearly skewed in favor of Europeans. Linnaeus considered these varieties of people within the same species.”

Laws, science and religion all worked in tandem to exclude black Americans from the human family. And while these are ancient laws and practices, the sentiment continues today. From Mike Brown being described as Hulk Hogan, to Serena William’s raging biceps being credited as the reason for a recent victory, the underlying message is that blacks are not fully human, only property and expendable, culpable enough to be guilty of the crimes committed against them but not human enough to stop the occurrence of those crimes. Yet and still, we are consistently told that the answer to these crimes is access to greater economic opportunity.

However, it was not the lack of economic opportunity that took the lives of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel L. Simmons, and Depayne Middleton Doctor just last month.

And it was not the lack of economic opportunity that killed Sandra Bland and Kindra Darnell Chapman in the last few days. Or for which a police officer wrestled teenage Dajerria Becton to the ground as he drew his gun on others.

It was not the lack of economic opportunity that took Tamir Rice’s life or that made Trayvon Martin’s end too soon. Or that makes black men, women, and children fall victim to police brutality every 28 hours in this country’s 21st version of lynching and Jim Crow. It is not for lack of economic opportunity that nearly 1.5 million men are missing in the United States, either locked behind bars or 6 feet under. In fact, history shows us that when blacks possessed economic opportunity, their businesses were often destroyed and in the most heinous cases, they were killed.

These things are happening because black Americans lack the opportunity to be fully and completely human. And that lack of recognition consistently denies us the opportunity to live and be free. The lack of economic opportunity is only a symptom of this but it is not the main problem. As such, fighting for civil rights only addresses that symptom and not the actual cause of the problem. Therefore, as we continue to demand economic opportunities – because yes, this is necessary – we need to fight even more for human rights and the ability to live, raise our children, grow old and die in dignity. We have to break the centuries-long demonic force in this nation that has persistently seen black Americans as property, possessing only a fraction of the humanity that whites possess. Without doing this, we will find ourselves right back here in another generation, fighting a newer version of Jim Crow.

Through effective policy, we could actually get to a point where black Americans are able to attain the economic opportunity that this society affords. It will be hard but it is not difficult to imagine. However, until we can live and are treated as brothers and sisters in the human fabric, we will not be free! This is the challenge before us in 2015. In my next post, I will share thoughts on how we can collectively address this challenge. Stay tuned!

Redefining Freedom in 21st Century America

We often count ourselves privileged, even blessed, to live in a nation where we have access to so many freedoms and rights. In comparison to other nations around the globe, we have the ability to pursue life, love, happiness and a host of other things that people in other countries wish they could enjoy. But what does it mean when our freedoms violate the wishes and the liberties of others? Is this freedom? Or is it slavery with a different face?

A few weeks ago, Clint Eastwood performed the Invisible Man skit at the RNC convention. Though some viewed the skit as strange, and maybe a little awkward, it was very clear that he purposed to attack President Obama’s otherness. Not his politics, not the way he governs the country, but his black skin. His African heritage. His otherness.

Like many others, I found myself put off by it. I felt like the skit was an effort to dehumanize and take value away from President Obama simply because he is different. And this is not okay. We can challenge his policies all day long, which I think is acceptable because we all come to this political animal with different lens – we are bound to disagree on a lot of things. But, we cannot write him or anybody else off because of the color of their skin. We cannot minimize someone’s humanity, their wishes, their needs, simply because they represent all that we are not. That is not exercising freedom at all; that is exercising hate.

To make matters even worse, there were some very disturbing occurrences of Obama chair lynchings in Virginia and Texas. The man who committed the offense in Texas even admitted that he had the nation’s African American president in mind when he did it. Though the freedom of speech protects the ones who did these awful things from legal consequences, is this not taking the notion of freedom too far? Where is the line? How can this be freedom when people of color (of which I am one) feel that their safety is compromised?

Further still, our endless pursuit of material things and wealth robs security and comfort from others around us. As we stock our closets, our garages, and our banks with more and more stuff, we limit other’s access to basic human necessities such as food and housing. Yet, our consumer driven economy gives us the freedom, and in fact, encourages us to consume more goods upon ourselves at any cost. And unfortunately the poor all too often pay that cost. Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that 46.2 million people were living in poverty in 2011, and that women and children are disproportionately affected by this. At the same time, the incomes of the top 1% continue to grow. Still, they have that audacity to ask for a tax-break while 46.2 million struggle to put food on the table and a roof over their children’s heads. Is this freedom? Or is this greed?

Freedom in the way that our nation envisions it, and in the way we live it out, is killing us. Like cancer, it is eating away at the core of our being, leaving more people marginalized and destitute in its path. We have to do something about it! And as people of faith, we have an obligation to do something about it including viewing freedom from a godly perspective. Just in looking through the Bible, it is clear that God calls us to use our freedom to set others free. Everything He gives us, is for the purpose of building others up, not tearing them down. He blesses us, so that we can be a blessing to others. He saves and rescues us, so that we can share the hope of salvation with others. Our words should give life, not take it. And what we have in our hands should be utilized to build the kingdom of God, instead of our own name.

I believe that we have a golden opportunity here. Right now, we are at a delicate moment in our nation’s history, and it will take the community of faith to navigate us through it successfully. But that means we have to use our freedoms, both God given and given by nature of our citizenship, for good. And we can! We do not have to buy in to what the culture around us is selling – we do not have to keep consuming, we do not have to say whatever we feel in the moment that we feel it, and we do not have to write others off simply because they do not look like us. No, rather, we can, with the help of God, live differently. We can, in fact, redefine what freedom looks like in our 21st century America.

Was God There?

Last week, my husband and I toured the Walker Art Museum with our daughter. One of the collections that we saw had a few photographs that reflected on the genocide that took 800,000 lives in Rwanda in the 90s. As I looked at the photographs, I remembered a blog that I read earlier that day about Rwanda and the genocide. In it, the author questioned where God was in the midst of all of the suffering:

Perhaps God was present during the genocide, feeling the full-blown pain of the victims, mourning the loss of his beloved children, aching with Rwandans when killers violated the sanctuary of his church and his Earth.

I believe that God was there. I believe that he was there feeling the pain of his crucifixion all over again as people took into their own hands the lives of others. I believe that he was there amidst all of the oppression, calling for his love and his mercy to be released. And I believe that he was there on September 11, 2001 as America suffered from the tragic events of that day. And he was there on in 2005 when a tsunami ravaged Southeast Asia and when Hurricane Katrina displaced families New Orleans. And he is there are millions of children in the United States and abroad go to bed with empty stomachs. He is there and has always been there, standing with humanity in every single tragedy, every single misfortune, every single act of evil.

I believe that this is the kind of God that we serve, one of compassion, one of grace. He does not take pleasure in the humanity’s suffering under any circumstances, but hurts when we hurt and grieves when we grieve. Yet this does not answer why suffering takes place, why does he allow these things to even happen? At the risk of sounding trite, I am not going to even answer that question, besides there are many theologians and authors who can do it way more eloquently and succinctly than I. But I will say this, we can take joy in knowing that the suffering is only temporary. It will not always last, like this earth that we live on, it will someday pass away. In the meantime, we hope and we pray, and we take refuge in God’s manifest presence even in the midst of the most horrible atrocities.

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My Prayer for Libya

After six months of conflict in Libya, rebel leaders have seized control of Tripoli. Although the fighting is far from over, residents of the country anticipate that Libya will soon be a new country, characterized by freedom in the absence of Gadhafi’s regime. At least this is the hope. 40 years of a harsh dictator has left the people craving for change, renewed leadership, and a prosperous society. The only question is how such will be achieved without persisting in the same direction.

I am cautiously optimistic. I know the potential that this country now has – economic and educational opportunities that were never enjoyed before, a stable government where people are respected and life is valued, and a civil society without the threat of oppression. But I also know history, and history shows that when given the chance, oppressed people often turn around and oppress other people. Rwanda’s history is a prime example of this tragedy. When the Hutu’s came to power after years of being oppressed by the Tutsi’s, they reacted by not only doing them the same, but by committing genocide. Now, Rwanda’s case is the extreme, however, it highlights the human tendency to seek revenge, to ostracize, and to use power as a means of exploiting the other.

This human tendency finds its roots outside of the Garden of Eden. Soon after the fall of humankind, we meet the first person in history to oppress another person. When Cain realized that his brother Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to God, he not only turned against him but he killed him, the ultimate expression of oppression. It is safe to say that Cain was motivated by jealously, in that he was jealous of Abel’s sacrifice. More importantly, however, Cain was motivated by fear and was afraid of what Abel’s close relationship with God could mean for him. His answer was to eliminate the competition, not realizing that God gives each and every one of us an opportunity to draw near to him.

I believe that fear is the number one driver of oppression around the world. Like Pharaoh in the biblical book Exodus, we fear being overpowered by people who appear to be mightier than us. We fear the unknown. We fear retribution. We fear God. Out of our fear, we seek to control the situations that we find ourselves in by any means necessary.

My prayer for Tripoli and the entire country of Libya is that their actions in the coming days, weeks and months will not be motivated by fear. I pray that instead, they would be motivated by genuine heartfelt love for their country and for its citizens and that this love would propel them into actions that will stimulate the growth and development of this nation that has a chance at a second start. I pray that individual tribes and people groups would not seek to control one another out of fear of what the other might do to them, but that instead, they would learn to live and work alongside each other. My prayer for Libya is the same as my prayer for the rest of the world, that we would put aside the fear that divides us and embrace the life that unites us at the cross of Christ.

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Internet: A Human Right?

This morning, I listened to a conversation on MPR about whether or not internet should be a global human right. As I listened, I initially thought that internet must be a human right because people need access to it in order to compete in our increasingly globalized world. However, some discussed how the internet should be perhaps a civil right, important for economic development and communication, but not essential. I think that I lean more towards the civil right piece, especially considering that there are so many basic human rights that are not being met such as right to life, food, housing, employment,etc. So what do you think, should the internet be a human right, a civil right, or something else entirely. Listen to the broadcast yourself and let me know your thoughts.