‘Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)’

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For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Revival is defined as: Restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength, and repentance (emphasis mine)http://dictionary.reference.com

Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control.”-Sabrina Fulton mother of Trayvon Martin

Saturday night as I was waiting for the subway to take me from the Upper Westside of Manhattan to Harlem I overheard an African-American cop tell his co-worker that George Zimmerman was not convicted of any charges. The face of his co-worker who was an African-American woman dropped and she silently turned towards the tracks to look for the next train. The scene was disturbing to me because I saw the powerlessness in both cops faces which is disheartening since these are “New York’s Finest” and yet with their badges and city issued authority they like many African-Americans were reminded of our powerlessness in a system that was founded on devaluing African life. As I sat on the train heading uptown I was outraged by the verdict but not surprised. When I arrived home I had to tell my African roommates from Tanzania the news and we had a long discussion about the case and one of my roommates stated “I guess we can only get justice from God.” My African roommates like myself are followers of Jesus who have had evangelical conversion experiences yet we know that our faith cannot save us from white supremacy. The Sinful fact is that though the Apostle Paul proclaimed in Galatians that: “we are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28) this oneness has not occurred in our daily realities.

What struck me most about this case is that Trayvon Martin’s mother Sabrina Fulton was at church praying with her faith community when she heard the verdict, taking this tragedy out of the courtroom and into our pews. Summertime is revival season for Christians of various denominations. Traditionally revivals or Great Awakenings have preceded most major movements in American society such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Revival involves not only a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit but an intense time of confession, repentance and crying out to God to make us and our communities “right”. In African-American “old time religion” during times of revival mourners would pray, cry and tarry all night long on the mourners bench until they heard from God. Currently Muslims are in the season of Ramadan which is also an intense time of fasting and praying. On Monday July 15th to Tuesday July 16th the Jewish community observed Tisha B’Av  an annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel. The destruction of the Second Temple was the culmination of Roman oppression and shows that oppression seeks to not only destroy the bodies and minds but even the worship of marginalized people. This summer will mark two major Civil Rights anniversaries the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and 58th Anniversary of Emmitt Till’s death. It is my belief that providence provides us with divine appointments that can be overlooked as coincidences if we do not have the spiritual eyes to see. This summer appears to be one of those times of divine appointment.

The American Church has never truly mourned and repented of its original sin of racism and sadly this sin has infected the Body of Yahshua (Christ) globally. The African-American parts of the body have been on the mourners’ bench permanently since we were transported to the shores of America. If the Church is going to survive we can no longer talk around the issue of racism, we can’t pray around it and we can’t Holy Ghost dance around it we truly have to deal with it.  Church attendance is declining in America but on the rise in Africa and South America shifting the composition of the Body of Christ. If racism is not addressed as stated in Esther chapter 4:14 “your father’s house will perish” or should I say our attendance will dwindle down to nothing. Younger Christians have expressed that they care more about what churches are doing as opposed to creeds and even young White Evangelicals have expressed disappointment over the church’s response to social issues. In this Sunday’s protest of the verdict young people were highly represented and this new generation will elect to be “spiritual not religious” over reciting “we are all one in Christ” on Sunday but living segregated on Monday.

MornersBenchIn order for the spiritual revival we desperately need to take place we are going to have to repent of America’s originally sin of white supremacy. This weekend’s verdict is just another of example of how the sins of the church have compromised our society. We can no longer do racial reconciliation ministry as usual where African-American Christians are quietly told to give up their heritage and righteous indignation so we can all come together. We are in a Kairos moment where true repentance is needed to make sure the bodies and souls of every person are treated with dignity.  Repentance is not sorrow for being caught in sin or having the sins of your society’s legal system exposed to the world.  Repentance is godly sorrow that what you did or allowed to happen through silence not only oppressed your fellow brother or sister but oppressed the image of God in that person. The American church has two choices: revival (through repentance which in this case would mean ending actions that keep the system of white supremacy in motion) or racism and all the missions’ trips, interfaith dialogues and social justice initiatives in the world won’t erase the stain of our country’s original sin. As stated in the famous Civil Rights hymn when it comes to dealing with the sin of racism: “We’ve gotta keep running, trying to make 100, 99 and 1/2 won’t do.”

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