Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Black Men

Living in the city all my life and ministering alongside and among minorities for most of my adult life, I have come face to face with the enormous problems in the Black Community and have had to wrestle, as a White man, with all the questions and implications of where things are and how they got that way. I posted about this some time ago.

I have heard all the theories, seen many attempts to "fix" the problem, engaged in the arguments and debates, and at some small level actually put my hand to the plow for some kind of work toward a solution. Anyone ministering in the city has witnessed the parade of preachers and politicians and social engineers who hurl their efforts, seemingly in vain, at the behemoth of brokenness.

I think we're missing something.

The liberals tend to polarize toward a position that minorities, especially African Americans, are consummate victims. Racism, bigotry, poverty and the lack of education that results from them are the adequate explanation for the current mess. Conservatives polarize to the opposite side: Blacks are making excuses and are completely responsible for their present situation. "If they'd just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, everything would be OK" seems to be much of the conservative mantra.

In real life, it's much more complex than either of those positions. No thinking person can spend an hour in the 'hood and come to any conclusion other than that institutional racism has done devastating damage after 300 years. By the same token, I firmly believe that anyone who is objective cannot deny the role that individual and corporate responsibility play in the overall health of a community, and that these very things have become marginalized in large swaths of the Black Community - by Black people.

With all this in mind, I got this e-mail today. It was birthed in the Black community and contains the seeds, I believe, for real change. See what you think.

The Silent Genocide:Facts about the Devastating Plight of Black Males in America

Only strong, organized, committed and courageous Black parents can stop this genocide. Not the police. Not teachers. Not schools. Not preachers. Not elected officials. Not social service agencies. Join us on Saturday, January 17, 2009, to do the work of Black parents. Celebrate Dr. King's Birthday by doing Dr. King's work!

Facts about the Devastating Plight of
Black Males in America*

In Chicago, only three out of 100 Black boys earn a college degree by age 25.
In 2006, only 37% of Black males graduated from high school in Chicago (near the U.S. average for Black males); only 19% graduated in Indianapolis and 20% in Detroit.
Just 22 % of Black males who began at a four-year college graduated within six years.
69% of Black children in America cannot read at grade level by the 4th grade, compared with 29% of White 4th-grade children.
The average 17-year-old Black student has the reading and math scores of the average 14- year-old White student.
7% of Black 8th-graders perform math at grade level.
67% of Black children are born out of wedlock.

In Illinois, 47% of all non-institutionalized Black men do not have a job.
In New York City in 2003, only 51.8% of Black men ages 16 to 64 were employed vs. 75.7% of White men and 65.7% of Latino men.
At comparable educational levels, Black men earn 67% of what White men earn.
White males with a high-school diploma are just as likely to have a job and tend to earn just as much as Black males with college degrees.
Blacks make up only 3.2% of lawyers, 3% of doctors and less than 1% of architects in America. Many of these are Black women.
53% of Black men aged 25 to 34 are either unemployed or earn too little to lift a family of four from poverty.
Nationally, 72% of Black high-school dropouts are unemployed.
Black America lost between $72 billion and $96 billion in the recent mortgage fiasco.
The median net worth of a Black family in America is $6,100 vs. $67,000 for a White family.
White men with prison records receive more offers for entry-level jobs in New York City than Black men with identical records (and White men with a prison record are offered jobs just as often - if not more so - than Black men who have never been arrested).

Murders of Black males between the ages of 14- and 17-years old rose by 40% between 2000 and 2007. During the same period, murders committed by Black males between the ages of 14- and 17-years old also rose by 38%.
In 2001, the chances of going to prison were highest among Black males (32.2%) and Hispanic males (17.2%) and lowest among White males (5.9%).
Blacks account for only 12% of the U.S. population, but 44% of all prisoners in the United States.
Blacks, who comprise only 12% of the population and account for about 13% of drug users, constitute 35% of all arrests for drug possession, 55% of all convictions on those charges, and 74% of all those sentenced to prison for possession.
In at least 15 states, Black men were sent to prison on drug charges at rates ranging from 20 to 57 times those of White men.
In 2003, 1,172 Black children and teenagers in the United States died from gunfire.
One in nine Black men between the ages of 20- to 34-years old is incarcerated and one in 15 Black men over 18-years old is incarcerated.
More Black children died in Chicago from gunfire in 2008 than Chicago soldiers died in Iraq.
1.46 million Black men out of a total voting population of 10.4 million have lost their right to vote because of felony convictions.

Only strong, organized, committed and courageous Black parents can stop this genocide. Not the police. Not teachers. Not schools. Not preachers. Not elected officials. Not social service agencies. Join us on Saturday, January 17, 2009, to do the work of Black parents.

Phillip Jackson will speak on these statistics and solutions to these issues on Saturday, JANUARY 17, 2009, on WVON radio on the Kendall Moore Show. You may visit
www.WVON.com and click on "Streaming 24/7 WVON" to hear this show at 5:00 pm eastern time, 4:00 pm central time, 3:00 pm mountain time and 2:00 pm pacific time.

* These statistics were compiled from various sources by The Black Star Project. You may email us to request sources at
blackstar1000@ameritech.net. To join the movement to save young Black men and to educate Black children, call us at 773.285.9600, email us at blackstar1000@ameritech.net or visit our website at www.blackstarproject.org.

Across the United States, the educational, social and economic outcomes for most Black children are a catastrophe! In the new global educational and economic order, many, if not most, Black American children cannot compete. If ever there were reasons for Black parents to take action, few are more compelling than the ones listed above:
Black parents are responsible for the well-being of Black children. Not the police. Not teachers. Not schools. Not preachers. Not elected officials. Not social service agencies. Black parents must hold the police, teachers, schools, preachers, elected officials, and social service agencies accountable for their actions to support the well-being of Black children.

We will only solve the problems of Black youth to the degree that we create strong, empowered and engaged parents for Black children. Our actions, or inactions, will determine the future of our race. Please join Black parents across America who know that if we are not organized, our children will not be recognized. If we do not speak up, Black children will have no voice. Black parents must advocate as well as educate. We must take responsibility for the education of our children. We will work in our homes, with our families, with our communities, with our schools and with our government to guarantee the proper and successful education of Black children. Passive parental involvement is not enough. Black parents must become active co-managers of our children's destiny. We must become the engineers of their success. We must and will actively participate in every aspect of their lives. Please join the Black Star Project's League of Black Parents and commit to a 90-minute meeting, one day a month, for the sake of your child and the future of our race. By joining the League of Black Parents, you will also join our community PTA chapter so that we can take advantage of existing resources.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sheep and Goats

WARNING: This is going to be a controversial post for some of you. Enjoy!

As I was walking up the stairs to my office this morning, one of the teachers from our school was commenting on how hard my job must be.

Which part? I asked. I do a lot of things.

The part about getting kids not to love the world.

She and her husband, a former youthworker, are doing some after school stuff with teenagers and apparently she's feeling the pain :o)

I told her that it's not hard at all!

Teenagers who are regenerate have this desire deep inside them to follow Jesus. They are sheep. They hear the voice of the Shepherd and they follow Him (John 10:3-4, etc.). They have AMAZING ups and downs, epic battles with the flesh (and parents), trouble of all kinds with the opposite sex, self image issues we cannot imagine, and yes, a fascination with all the world has to offer.

But I don't have to "get them" to love Jesus. There is this engine, the Holy Spirit, inside them that continually drives them towards God. I have watched this over and over again.

Because I'm not the one who has to "get them" to love Jesus, then I'm not the one who who has to "get them" to not love the world. I exhort them and counsel them and love on them and teach them, and sometimes deliver a godly kick in the pants, but they know innately that the world is hollow and ultimately Jesus is better. So they fall and get up. They land on their feet, even if it's a nail biter for a few years!

The problem, I told the teacher, is the goats. The youth group is full of them at the moment. Many churches are full of them, I believe. In fact, I fear that many pulpits have more than their quota of goats across the country, which explains to a large extent the condition of the church in America. For generations we have spouted a "gospel" that says that Jesus will take away all your problems and give you heaven if you say this little prayer. For generations, Christian parents have completely disengaged from their biblical mandate to disciple their children. For generations, youth ministry people have treated sheep like goats because the kid prayed a prayer at age 5 and we refuse to question his salvation, despite the mocking of God or whatever other deviant behavior we see.

And it's REALLY HARD to get goats to act like sheep. Really hard.

I mean, you can get them to for awhile, but when it really gets hot (like loving Jesus, let's say - or renouncing the world, or loving their neighbor) then they get really feisty. I have concluded, after almost 18 years of youth ministry, that the stupidest thing I can do is try to get kids who clearly are unregenerate to worship or be holy or live in any way like Christians. I need to love and evangelize them, and evangelism is surely the first part of the disciple-making spectrum, but I need to stop trying to disciple people who are not disciples.

Now I know, this whole regeneration thing is a bit controversial... we want to treat everyone like a "child of God". We don't want to "judge" anyone's salvation (and we shouldn't in a declarative sense, since only God knows the heart; but we can certainly question and inspect fruit!). We really want to think that getting the lost kid into a Christian community where he can see Jesus in action will win him. And I'll even go so far as to say that for someone who really knows they're not a Christian, this is probably a good strategy. But it does not work for the kid who thinks he's saved and is not. All it does is kill community in your group.

I have wasted far too much time trying to make dead people act alive. I am grateful that it is the Spirit of God that gives life, and that this life He gives cannot be taken away. My job is simply to fan the flame that God has already put in the soul, not to light the fire; and to proclaim the powerful gospel to those who are not yet lit.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Incarnational 101

We are a foster family.

We recently had a little girl named Klaudia placed with us as a foster child. To be honest, our reasoning behing becoming licensed was because we wanted to adopt a second child, and we could not afford to do another private adoption, as we did with Anisa. By going through the foster care system (DCFS and its various contracted agencies - in our case ECFA) we could go through a foster-to-adopt process and actually be paid for the whole thing rather than going into hock. Nothing like your tax dollars at work!

A little boy named Venson was placed with us last summer, but he ended up being permanently placed with relatives shortly after we got him. So in September we got Klaudia at the age of four months.

Klaudia was born drug-addicted. As a result, she spent the first month of her life in the far from ideal environment of a hospital. Because her birth mom was trying to get her life together and was in rehab, she got her little girl back. Unfortunately, her mom worked a lot and Klaudia was left with various caregivers, which ultimately led to 11 fractures, including 5 broken ribs. Klaudia was removed and placed in the system, which led to our paths crossing.

Here's the hard part: Klaudia cries all the time. Often, she screams uncontrollably. When we first got her, she screamed so bad I honestly believe it could not have been worse if someone was sawing her leg off. It has gotten better, but it's still extrordinarily hard. Too frequently we are awakened to screaming at 5 am. Because of her drug addiction, hospitalzations and abuse, she has significant sensory issues and is delayed several months in her development. This results in weekly appointments with various therapists, representatives of DCFS and ECFA, various social workers, and of course the regular weekly visit with her birth mom.

Klaudia also has a condition called craniosynostosis, which will require cranial surgery later this month. Our lives have been consumed with doctor visits, consent forms, and tests at Children's Memorial. The surgery itself will require the turning upside-down of our entire lives (all 6 of us - me, my wife, my boys Klaudia and Anisa) for some time.
It's insane.

I was teaching on the concept of biblical love a couple weeks ago when I realized that I had not been loving Klaudia. In fact, I was looking very forward to the time when she would go back home. The thought of adopting her is really unrealistic since her mom wants her back and is working toward that end, and the emotional trauma of attaching only to lose her seems to be too much. I have even been contemplating getting out of the whole foster care business entirely and scrapping the idea of any more adoptions. It's just too much.

But I am a slave of Christ. Do I love only when it's gratifying? Do I make my own decisions about my life?

What about the thousands of kids in the system that need homes? After Klaudia, do I just get out for the sake of my own sanity?


But it's not my call.

I had something of an epiphany the other night when we went to a foster parent support group hosted by ECFA. I saw other couples that had 4 or 5 or 6 foster kids, all with significant issues. And they were doing it with love and joy.

At the very least, I need to be wide open. I need to be available to God. What, after all, does it mean to be the "hands and feet of Jesus"? It has to be something tangible, no?

I don't want to sacrifice the health of the rest of my family, and God knows how much we can take, but I am no longer willing to simply say no. Life cannot be about my comfort or what makes me happy if I am to call myself a disciple of Jesus.

So I am open.

And I am learning how to love a difficult little girl who lives in my life and my home.

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The other night I walked my dog over to a little park on Monticello Street at around 11 pm. It had to be about 5°F or so, and I was reminded why I love winter so much.

In the park there was about 15” or more of virgin snow. No one had been there for days. I had my big Sorel boots on and my long johns under my clothes, so I was up for a bracing plunge down the park trail. It is something else to break trail – to walk in the heart of Chicago in a place no one has touched. It is sweet and purifying and exhilarating to breathe the coldness of the air and see the sharpness of the stars and feel the bite of the wind on my face.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the deep cold is the remarkable experience of having the city to myself. Nobody was out. No drivers, no gangbangers, no pit bulls to make my Yellow Lab nuts. On every street I walked down to get to the park – and back – it was just me and my dog. The cold quiet was enveloping and comforting and life giving. Think of it: In the ‘hood at night with no noise and no crowds and no concerns – just the cold and snow and quiet.

God knows my soul’s love for the wilderness. However, that is a life I am not called to. So He gives me a little piece of it once in awhile in the most unexpected of places.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Something Good...

Pursuit of God Preface – A.W. Tozer

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct "interpretations" of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.

This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man's hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day.

But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders. Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the "piercing sweetness" of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy.

I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton's terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: "The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed." It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God's children starving while actually seated at the Father's table. The truth of Wesley's words is established before our eyes: "Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is a proof of this."

Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold "right opinions," probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the "program." This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This book is a modest attempt to aid God's hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.

A. W. Tozer
Chicago, Ill.
June 16, 1948

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