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Black History Month: Telling the Story of God's Mighty Power

Karen Waddles

Karen Waddles | 02.08.12

15 comments

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a blog post for Black History Month. “Sure!” I replied. But when I sat down to write, the immensity of the task struck home. It’s such a huge topic to cover in a post . . . for sure, many would appreciate the information, but would there be those who would question why we even have black history month? The following is my heartfelt attempt to answer this question.

I grew up in Kansas in the late 50s and 60s. My sister and I were each the only African-American students in our elementary school classes. When we opened our textbooks, there was no mention of contributions of African-Americans to the advancement of this country. As we turned the pages of our history books, there were no pictures of people that looked like us, no scientists, no noteworthy doctors, no educators . . . So we began early on to internalize a sense of inferiority and ”less than.” We had to make a concerted effort to rise above the expectations of our teachers and to excel.

A lot has changed since my sister and I were in elementary school. In my granddaughter’s sixth grade text books, much attention is given to the valuable contributions that African-Americans have made to this country. The newer textbooks record the election of the first black President of the United States, and many other firsts. It’s undeniable that much progress has been made.  So, all is well, right?

If it were a matter of acquisition of positions and access to previously unattainable roles, I suppose we could say that. But this whole issue gets to matters of the heart, doesn’t it? Are things really better, or is there just the appearance of things being better? I think we may still have a problem in our countryeven today. Consider the following current event that highlights this issue.

In Hollywoodarguably the most “progressive” and liberal place in AmericaGeorge Lucas could not find one motion picture studio that would get behind his new movie, Red Tails. The studios didn’t believe that people would be interested in an all-black action movie. The movie is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Air Men (America’s first black military airmen) who flew bombing missions during World War II. These brave men risked their lives knowing that they would return to an American society that still regarded them as second-class citizens. It’s quite telling that in 2012, the movie has been received in much the same way that their service to America was received in 1940.

But that’s the world, not the Christian community. Surely we have set this issue aside and are able to see beyond skin color as Christians. Would that that were true!
I was having lunch about five years ago with a small group of ladies, all Christians. Somehow in our discussion, we started talking about black history and slavery. I was more than a little caught off guard when one of the ladies looked at me and said, “I think blacks should be thankful for slavery because if your ancestors had not been brought here, you wouldn’t have the good life that you have here in America.”

It had never occurred to her that slavery took the brightest, the strongest, and the best of the Africans from their homeland. If they had been left there, Africa would be quite different than it is today . . . and America would be quite different as well. As I have reflected over that conversation many times since then, I have appreciated so much the dialogue that her honesty allowed.

Suffice it to say, a lot of us struggle with this issueboth inside the church and outside the church. So, is that it? We just nod assent to this problem and accept that that’s just the way things are? I pray not. I think we have to consider the grand meta-narrative. What was in the mind of God when He created different ethnicities? He had to know the great schisms that would evolve because of these differences.

Indeed He did. It is entirely human to want to be with those who are “our kind.” It is entirely human to regard with suspicion those who are different. And it is entirely human for those of us who have grown up in this country to accept that there is a sort of “pecking order” of ethnic groups. Indeed, God knew all these things. And I believe that is why, in Christ’s priestly prayer He prayed, “Father, keep them in your name, the name which you have given me, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:11).

This is it! This is the grand meta-narrative: That God would make us all one and enable us to defy our human instincts, transformed by His miraculous power. What a testimony it would be to a watching world to see believers in Jesus Christ go entirely against the grain of everything that is human and carnal, and just love on one another, without respect of person . . . or skin color.

When Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River, he commanded them to take twelve large stones from the river and erect a memorial so that whenever their children asked what they meant, they could tell of the miraculous way God had dried up the Jordan so they could cross on dry land (Josh. 4:22b-24). The stones testified of the mighty hand of God and inspired awe for Him.

In many ways, that is what Black History Month is to African-Americans. It’s much more than educating ourselves and others about the valuable contributions of our people. It is a time to remember and re-tell the story of how God moved on our behalf throughout historyeradicating slavery and opening doors that had been closed. It is a time, once again, to testify of His mighty hand and to be in awe of His power!

It’s a time to remember, to reflect. So, let’s take some time this month to remember together. Not just events and people, but what God was trying to accomplish all along. In this laboratory of American life, He brought a multitude of people together to demonstrate His power to make us all one. Let’s delight in the heart of our Godlet’s do the hard work of becoming one!

What would it look like for the body of Christ to embrace oneness? What impact might it have on American culture for Christians to embody this critical spiritual truth? What can you do as an individual to move this dialogue and cause forward? How can we help our children develop healthy attitudes towards those of other ethnicities?

(For more on this topic, I recommend Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans and The Heart of Racial Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson.)

Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this article! It was most insightful. I admire your courage!

    God bless you sweet sister!
    posted by Alison
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 8:04 am
  2. Thank you for this post. I asked my Sunday Morning Bible Study Class of sixth through eighth grade African American students some questions about Black History and sad to say, they were not able to answer them. They said that not much attention is given to Black History except the little that is mentioned during a Black History assembly at school. We have a Black History Program one Sunday in February each year at our church to help promote knowledge of our history.

    I think it is not up to the schools or even the church to teach our children about their heritage (whether African, European, Asian, etc.) but it is up to dads, moms, and the extended family.

    Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, ..., when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ Deuteronomy 4:9-10
    New King James Version (NKJV).

    It is of the upmost importance to pass on the spiritual legacy to our children so that they may learn to fear the Lord all the days of their lives.
    posted by Elveria
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 9:25 am
  3. Wow! Beautiful article, Karen, as are you--inside and out! Thank you for this!
    posted by Sarah
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 10:08 am
  4. Thanks for your post, Karen! Col. 3: 9-12 says it well. "... you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised of uncircumcised, barbarian, Sythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have..." Gal. 3: 26-29 is similar. NIV

    At the tower of Babel people were separated because of sin, but in Christ we are all one.

    I love your posts!
    posted by Rhoda
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 10:50 am
  5. Thank you for the post.
    Black History Month is dear to my heart.
    When I read all the historical events and see all the documentaries on public televisions it reminds me of all the times my grandparents told me and my cousins of the faithfulness of God concerning the 'negro' people and the courage and faith of the people.
    My husband and I communicated these events and stories to our children. When teachers asked them about history of Black America they were able to respond. I agreee we must tell our children of how good God has been to us. Tell them of His awesome power that all may love and respect Him.
    May America never forget the people that were forced from their homeland (but once here) unwillingly and willingly participated in the greatness of this country.
    My father was a willing participant of U.S. Army / World War II.
    posted by Leeza
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 11:10 am
  6. My husband and I have just finished reading, "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," and what an eye-opening experience it has been! It awakens in me a renewed sense of just how terrible slavery was, and how important it is that we realize how equal we all are.

    I thought of several of my black co-workers, and realized that 150 years ago, they would have been enslaved, and 50 years ago, we would have grown up in different schools, drank from different water fountains, etc. I can barely imagine a world like that, yet I know we still have a ways to go yet.
    posted by Allison
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm
  7. Dear Allison,
    I love that you and your husband read "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass". What a wonderful way to come to a better understanding and appreciation of our shared histories. It is true that not long ago things were very different in our country. Praise God that change has come. May it continue to His glory!

    Blessings,
    Karen
    posted by Karen Waddles
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm
  8. I really enjoyed Acts 17:24-31 recently, and one of the points in Paul's sermon is that God "has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth" (verse 25). Also in verse 28 it says, "For we are also His offspring."
    Our oneness isn't the main point of Paul's dissertation here, but it is clearly expressed.
    Thanks, Karen.
    posted by April
    on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm
  9. Beautifully written!! Love the book by Brenda! May I also
    suggest Divided By Faith and Bloodlines.
    Both are good reads on racial reconciliation!
    We need more dialogue about this is the church.
    Thank you!!
    kingdombusiness07.blogspot.com
    posted by Nicole
    on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9:19 am
  10. Thank you for this post, Karen. Oh, I wish I could just sit down and chat with you! My husband and I are adoptive parents. Our daughter is black and we are white.
    I am currently reading "Bloodlines" by John Piper; it's been insightful. I will look for the other books you suggested.
    posted by Elaine
    on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm
  11. Dear Elaine,
    Bless you and your husband for opening your hearts to love and nurture your daughter. I pray that as she grows and matures, and becomes a woman she will love the Lord with all her heart, and will have a healthy perspective on her identity. There are still, unfortunately, so many things in our culture that reinforce negative ethnic stereotypes.

    I don't know how old your daughter is, but when it is appropriate it will be really important to expose her to books (biographies are excellent!) and resources that will help her to have a positive sense of herself. I can highly recommend Wendy Lawton's Daughter's of the Faith series that features the life stories of Phyllis Wheatley, and Harriet Tubman. As well, the movie series "Roots" does wonders in putting a human face on a chapter of our history that is hard to reckon with.

    Be encouraged and trust that the Lord will give you discernment and peace in knowing how best to love your daughter to her fullest potential. She is indeed a blessed young lady.

    In Him,
    Karen
    posted by Karen Waddles
    on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm
  12. How beautiful, I grew up in Mississippi the 50's and
    some of the 60's. Wow, how refreshing read about
    us from how and where God has brought us as a
    people. We still have a long way to go. But thank God there has been miracles wrought and they are
    precious in my eyes, all the way from the cotton fields to where I am now, Praise the Lord!
    posted by Mattie Hill
    on Friday, February 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm
  13. I moved to the south in my early twenties from the midwest and really didn't understand slavery until then.
    Now in my forties, I appreciate each and every learning experience. And now know that the bible is full of "blackness", we need to re-educate ourselves and show one another that God loves us all, no matter what color we are, why not? He created us for who we are!!
    posted by Val
    on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 5:26 pm
  14. Just sitting with two sisters Mattie and Lillie and listening to them tell me of their childhood growing up black in Mississippi. I knew what they were telling me was a painful recollection and I was honored that they would share their story with me... a white girl...having only a small perception of what it was like to be black and living in a white man's world. I know we still have a long way to go for oneness to be achieved and it starts with conversation, education and having a clear and deep understanding of what our sisters and brothers went through and still go through. This will be a prayer of mine. As Christ said "Love One Another".
    posted by Sandy Kleinhans
    on Monday, February 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm
  15. Dear Elaine,
    Bless you and your husband for opening your hearts to love and nurture your daughter. I pray that as she grows and matures, and becomes a woman she will love the Lord with all her heart, and will have a healthy perspective on her identity. There are still, unfortunately, so many things in our culture that reinforce negative ethnic stereotypes.

    I don't know how old your daughter is, but when it is appropriate it will be really important to expose her to books (biographies are excellent!) and resources that will help her to have a positive sense of herself. I can highly recommend Wendy Lawton's Daughter's of the Faith series that features the life stories of Phyllis Wheatley, and Harriet Tubman. As well, the movie series "Roots" does wonders in putting a human face on a chapter of our history that is hard to reckon with.

    Be encouraged and trust that the Lord will give you discernment and peace in knowing how best to love your daughter to her fullest potential. She is indeed a blessed young lady.

    In Him,
    Karen
    posted by Karen Waddles
    on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

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