Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Forest and Trees

Today, I want to speak to my fellow white people, particularly my fellow Christian white people.

Many of us are missing the point

Yesterday, an innocent man, Terence Crutcher, was shot. He was an innocent man inspecting his own car. He was tazed and shot because he did not immediately follow instructions. He was unarmed. He had his hands up and visible. Now, investigations are ongoing and this article has a fairly good summary of the due process that needs to be followed and the confounding legal questions, but the shooting is not what I want to highlight.

I want to highlight our response.

You see, Mr Crutcher is a black man and, unfortunately, he is now the newest name in a growing list of black men killed by police. He is now the next name on a list in the argument against police brutality and social injustice. You would think that, after such a tragedy, there would be mourning as a community in response. No, no. I only heard about the shooting via my wife. I saw nothing from any of my white friends except a post which showed how there are good relationships between black men and police.

Yesterday, in Langa, a peri-urban settlement (lit. a shack town) in Cape Town, South Africa, inhabited almost completely by poor black individuals, was in the midst of a protest against poor services delivery. The only word I heard from any of my SA friends was from one person who had to drive through the protest, recounting the shock of riot police, guns, and the smoke of burning tires, praising God and thanking the police that she made it through safely. My fellow white people, I am ashamed. You are focusing on the minutiae, the trees, when the problem is with the forest.

The protest of police vs black violence is not about shaming the police. It doesn't require you to defend the police or discredit the victim and find opposing evidence - there will always be evidence to oppose anything, provided the inclination is there. The issue is about respect and fair treatment under the law, something assumed by many of us white people, but still being fought for by many of our fellow black men and women.

Service delivery protests/riots, while terrifying, are happening because of a real problem. While we recount the horrors and fears experienced as an outsider passing through, let us remember that what many white people have and take for granted, our black brothers and sisters are fighting to obtain - and not because they cannot afford it, but because it has yet to be delivered.

Just because we, as white people, are not immediately impacted is not a sufficient excuse to dismiss the injustice surrounding us in society. When Christ gave the parable of the good Samaritan, he did not say that our neighbour extended only to those who looked/spoke/thought like us. No, the whole point of the parable is that loving our neighbour means seeing the hurt, the maligned, the needy, and doing what we can to help.

And that help? I'm not advocating at all for the White Messiah complex. For help to be actual help, it must be the right type of assistance/aid/support, given in the right manner, at the right time. To make a comparison, if someone drops on the floor, having a heart attack, you don't begin scolding the individual for any habit he/she might have that contributed to his heart attack; you administer CPR or find someone who can. When social injustice is shown, you don't tell the victims they're imagining things or that they've contributed to their own issues; you stop and listen, giving a willing ear and a heart willing to understand, and, should the opportunity present, take some measure of appropriate action.

Are we not called to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn? What would it hurt to take a moment to empathise - to place ourselves, our families in these repeated cycles of injustice? Would it hurt to turn to a black friend, relative, or colleague and simply say, "I heard about what happened. I'm so sorry."? Take the initiative. Put yourself out there in love, seeking to understand or support. Make that connection. If nothing else, it's a start.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Chicken and Egg

So, my wife and I were getting food and, while we were eating/heading home, I had a revelatory moment. It hit me that many of us have the perception of the relationship between Diet and Exercise backwards.

Instead of dieting comparative to our daily level of exercise, we often seek to exercise comparative to our dietary intake.

The more I think about it, the more backwards it sounds. That's like saying "I put two extra gallons of gas in the car this week, so I need to drive it more."

As long as we use exercise as a means to try and undo our bad dietary habits, we're never going to make any serious effect on our health. As long as we keep the attitude of "I'll just do an extra couple of laps to make up for [those] doughnut[s]," we will always be stuck in a losing battle. As a society, we are far too sedentary to eat the way we do.

____________________________________Side Note_____________________________________
Now, I need to pause here. I must admit that I am exhibiting a clear example of "Do what I say; not what I do," because, remember the food I was eating in the car - it was Taco Bell (not to mention the regrettable number of doughnuts eaten at a conference this morning). So, keep in mind that I need to work on this myself.

So, instead of viewing exercise as a tool to undo bad eating habits, how should we be eating?

Well, we should be eating like professional athletes

That may sound odd, especially for those like myself who are mostly too busy to fit a regular workout in, but it's true. When we think about how athletes eat, it becomes very clear that athletes eat to fuel their bodies. They make sure to eat enough proteins, carbs, and fats to meet the demands of their sport. After all, they are using up a lot of energy that has to come from somewhere. Similarly, for those who rarely see the inside of a gym or who don't set apart time for physical activity, we need to eat enough proteins, carbs, and fats to meet our metabolic demands. The difference is, our demands are far less.

And, let's face it: eating less is far easier than exercising more.

So, let me ask the burning questions:

  • Do I really need that 12oz ribeye or would a 6oz cut be better?
  • Do I really need that one/two/four (cough cough guilty cough) doughnuts?
  • Do I really need to pack my plate that full this Thanksgiving?
  • Do I really need that mid-afternoon snack?
If you're anything like me (rugby 2-4 hrs/week; gym 0-4 hrs/week), the answer might just be, "No," and, you know what, it's okay.

So, come join me as I re-evaluate my own dietary intake and tune it to match my output

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Role of Law

One question I've heard off and on, particularly when, in church/ministry circles, a teacher or a student is asking a thought-provoking question, is, in my own words, "Given Christ and the new covenant, what is now the role of the Law, the old covenant?"

I think many times, in my experience, we try to answer something along the lines of, "It serves to show us the standard and impossibility of perfection."

It's a good answer, but it also sells the old covenant somewhat short. After all, there are times when God had remarked to Israel that He would prefer the sincere worship of their hearts to the empty exactitude of lawfulness.

While doing some reading and spending time with God today, I came across a small little verse that really illuminated, to me, the role of the Law, especially in light of Christ:
"So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith." - Gal 3:24
The Law wasn't some cosmic quality metric to show us our imperfection. Neither was it a ball and chain, enslaving the Israelites. No, the Law served to illustrate to the Israelites the character of God, that they might grow in understanding, becoming ripe for the harvest of faith, that is, Christ. The original Greek word used for "guardian" is paidagogos, a word used for a servant whose role was (to train up a child by administering discipline, chastisement, and instruction." (HELPS Word-Studies, Helps Ministries Inc.)