Keeping Black Christians at Arm’s Length

12/11/2013

I am always encouraged by the many black Christians I see and hear about embracing and rejoicing in the truths of Reformed theology. Seemingly in all segments of the church, Reformed theology is finding inroads with black Christians as they seek new depth to their theological understanding and experience. Unfortunately, some of my white Reformed brothers don’t make the embrace easy.

Today some in the white Reformed community continue to seemingly use every opportunity to alienate black Christians and keep them at arms length. They do so with what amounts to cultural elitism. I find it disheartening and shameful. Personally, I don’t embrace Reformed theology because of who does or does not advocate it. I embrace it because I find it consistently biblical and experientially rich. However, I must admit to sympathizing with my black brothers and sisters who are regrettably repelled by what is insensitivity, and even hurtful at times, coming from some Reformed white voices.

“I must admit to sympathizing with my black brothers…”

Recently, for example, we witnessed the dust up from the unfortunate and incendiary remarks by a few Reformed men at a Worship Conference sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. The men on the panel in unison condemned Christian, even Reformed, hip-hop as cowardice, unbiblical, immature, and ungodly. Some of their remarks even came across as vitriolic and venomous. While I don’t think their remarks were meant to be racially aggravating, they should have been aware that to speak of the culture out of which Christian hip-hop and rap arises is to speak of a culture predominantly populated by black artists and advocates. Therefore, to speak so disparagingly and dismissively concerning hip-hop is also to project that disparaging and dismissive tone toward your black brothers and sisters involved and supportive of Christian hip-hop.

I don’t want to take away anyone’s right to disagree with certain means of worship and communication. I know faithful men and women who dislike Christian hip-hop. That’s cool. However, I do want to implore my white Reformed brothers (as I try to remind myself) to think and consider the implications and potential impact of your words before you speak or write them. For example, one young black brother in our church commented, after watching the panel, that if he had any books by the men on that panel, he would throw those books away. Obviously, this would be an over-reaction and would be wrongly dismissive in reverse. However, we must not underestimate the reaction our actions potentially can garner from others.

Similarly, with the death of Nelson Mandela, some men in the Reformed community have suddenly found it necessary to speak what they believe is “the truth” about Mr. Mandela and to offer what they believe is a more accurate view of him as opposed to the one they believe is proffered by the “liberal media.”  As the world, and many African-Americans celebrate the life and sacrifices of Nelson Mandela, some of my Reformed white brothers insist on pointing out on the day of his death that when Mr. Mandela went to prison, he was a leader in the so-called “terrorist” group, the ANC (African National Congress). Because of this association, some of my Reformed brothers vilify him and his comrades for violently resisting the insidious and evil apartheid regime of South Africa at the time.

Admittedly, before he went to prison, Mr. Mandela became an advocate of violence against a violent and wicked government. However, it should be argued that his violence was a violence that violence produced.  Was he right?  Well, I wonder if my Reformed white brothers would label George Washington and the Continental Congress as terrorists for taking up arms and engaging in what amounted to guerrilla warfare against King George III and the British Empire?  Or what of the violence and terrorism that was slavery in America?

The evil of slavery in the United States was perpetuated, advocated and/or defended by such Reformed heroes as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Robert E. Lee, Robert L. Dabney, James Henry Thornwell, and many others. Because of their association with and/or defense of slavery, shall we label them terrorist sympathizers?  Or what of the violence and terrorism of Jim Crow (our nation’s apartheid complete with bombs, water hoses, dogs, lynchings, etc.) perpetuated and defended by some prominent Reformed churches from Atlanta to Birmingham, from Memphis to Jackson. Are we willing to also label these churches as “terrorist organizations?”

Understand, I am not seeking to bring reproach upon the men and churches mentioned above. I only want to make the point that Mr. Mandela did not have the corner on violence. Therefore, some in Reformed white America should be careful of throwing bricks, because many of their Reformed heroes lived in glass houses.

“I’m not seeking to bring reproach upon the men…”

I have great respect for Nelson Mandela, just as I have for George Whitefield. I respect them as men with clay feet, who gave their lives in service to others, while at the same time holding to and advocating some positions that others could deem terrorism. I would not say that it should define either of their legacies, for they both were more than the pragmatism that drove them at times. You see, the way I rank my heroes is Jesus first – and everyone else lumped in together way behind.

I am openly, and confessionally Reformed. Make no mistake about it. And I won’t reject Reformed theology simply because some of those who hold to reformed theology are insensitive, hypocritical, and even wrong at times.  Their sin does not invalidate biblical truth for me. I pray it doesn’t for you either.

Thankfully, the growth of Reformed theology among African-Americans has not been contingent upon the welcome mat of some white Reformed brothers. God continues to do what he has done, “pouring out his Spirit on all flesh.”  May my brothers and sisters according to the flesh continue to seek and embrace the truth of Reformed theology despite the clay feet and slippery tongues of some of our Reformed white brothers, whom we love, though at times they make it harder than it should be.

Tony Carter serves as the Lead Pastor of East Point Church. Tony is married to his beloved, Adriane Carter, and their marriage has bore the fruit of five wonderful children. Holler at him on Twitter: @eastpc
Anthony_Carter
  • Christoph

    Good reminder that many (including myself) are very ignorant of (church) history. There’s much to learn there, especially to be more discerning about the things I believe and rally behind. Time to pick up a few more books, I guess.

  • moebergeron

    Tony, As a preacher and teacher I have known in years past the fellowship of God’s saints on both sides of the street named “reformed” and as someone of European descent I can attest to the fact that the “keep them at arms length” comes from both sides of the King’s highway. It’s not just “their” problem. I have felt the sting on several occasions and it is hurtful. To be genuine and effective priests in the service of King Jesus we need identify with his or her sins and own them as our own.

    Thank you for your words. This blog is truly a breath of fresh air.
    May our Lord continue to bless your ministry.

  • Parableman

    George Washington didn’t target civilians, though. There really is a difference in tactics. Mandela was willing to bomb sporting events and marketplaces. Those pointing this out should be equally forceful in pointing to his change of heart in prison, from which he emerged as an advocate for forgiveness of those he had formerly violently opposed. But the fact remains that he did advocate terrorism and should not be seen in his younger day as some sort of parallel to the nonviolence of Martin Luther King. He wasn’t that sort of man until after he emerged from prison.

    • Tony Carter

      Parableman, really appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts on this subject. The extent to which Mandela targeted civilians can be debated. I’m not going to, however, because what can not be debated is the truth that the apartheid government of South Africa targeted civilians everyday – in far more egregious ways than Mandela. Also, you may not regard George Washington and his comrades as terrorist, but British throne might have. In fact, the historian Stephen Ambrose once said that if the British had captured Washington, they would have “drawn and quartered” him. Not exactly the type of punishment you simply give to prisoners of war. Nevertheless, the point is that in trying times even the best of us are often given over to pragmatism – a pragmatism that often finds us on the right side of history, though at the time, maybe the wrong side of the law.
      Thanks again for stopping by.

      • geoffrobinson

        For treason, not terrorism.

      • Jeff Kessler

        Let me say at the beginning, I’m not an expert on the beginnings of the ANC. But as best I understand history, comparing the ANC to the colonial government of 1776 is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, or at the very least comparing a golden delicious to a red delicious. And lest I be misunderstood, I’d say the same about comparing the American War for Independence to the French Revolution.

        Here is why:

        By the time of the Continental Congress, the reformed doctrine of the lesser magistrate had been around for at least a century. “A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants” was translated to English in 1689. The individual colonial governments and later the Continental Congress were the lesser magistrates…the “umbrella” or authority under which Washington’s army marched.

        Note, I’m making a Biblical legitimacy argument, I didn’t mention tatics.

        Now one can still say the colonists were wrong in what they did and one can still say the ANC was right in what they did, but I’m not sure they should be compared. Just as I don’t think the Americans colonists should be compared to those behind the French Revolution.

    • John S.

      GW may not have but the Sons of Liberty didn’t have very clean hands. Or do civil officials not count as civilians?

  • Parableman

    I should say that I still don’t think what George Washington did was right. It was a violent resistance against the divinely-instituted government over him, and scripture is very clear about that. He should have prayed for the British government and done what was in his power to oppose the evil it perpetuated, not least of which was the slavery that he willingly participated in. Perhaps even Mandela was on better footing than Washington as to the just cause of his violence. But the fact remains that Washington’s tactics were not terrorist, because they didn’t target innocent victims in order to send a message to the larger culture or to the British government. Mandela was willing to do exactly that sort of thing.

  • Rob Harrison

    I had the blessing, in seminary, of hearing a speaker in chapel who was a member of the de Klerk government at its end, and part of the negotiations with the ANC; he was also, fwiw, a member of one of the Reformed churches in South Africa (I don’t remember which denomination). His account of the divine intervention that resurrected the negotiations at the last minute and brought about the peaceful transfer of power was, literally, awe-inspiring. It also made it very clear to me that God had several men, on both sides, in the heart of that maelstrom–and Mr. Mandela was definitely one of them.

    It’s grievous how often people think they need to make their points by tearing others down, rather than building them up.

  • josephrandall

    Pastor Carter, Thanks for this post, and for all your books. We give them away at our church! Your post helps me relate to so many people I minister to. I’m a white pastor in a very diverse area – with many African Americans.

    I did find it ironic, though, that after I posted something favorable about Mandela, it was 3 African Americans from my congregation who indirectly rebuked me concerning praising Mandela because of his stance on violence and on abortion. May Christ bring us all to one mind on these tough issues. Thanks again for your labor in Christ.

  • The Concusionist

    Excellent piece Tony. It saddens my soul (and boils my blood) to hear you tell about a panel of professing Christians who cannot see the incredible value of Hip Hop and Rap made by Christians with unabashedly Christian lyrics. I am frustrated by most “contemporary Christian music.” Much of it is musically uninteresting and theologically anemic. But artists like Trip Lee and Shi Lynn and many others are producing some of the most theologically rich music in our culture today. Period. All Christians should be humbled by the poetic and poignant writings of these young men.

    Nelson Mandela had an air of selflessness and passion about him that few people in major political circles can match. I don’t agree with many of his ideas about government. The democratic/socialist system that was implemented to replace apartheid was better, but still incredibly flawed, and is part of the weight that is crushing Africa today. Mandela did what he thought was best and he did it with his whole heart. I respect that.

    Thanks Tony for your thought provoking words. God bless!

    • Tony Carter

      Well said, by friend!

  • Caleb Marr

    No one can condemn Nelson Mandela – whoever has no sin throw the first stone! -; and there is no dichotomy which says Mandela is either an evil terrorist or a mighty savior. However, there are facts about he pursued his goal of human Rights. I will draw no conclusions, but here are a few facts: the ANC was an openly communist organization; Mandela was the leader of the militant wing of the ANC: known for cutting off people’s lips and ears for speaking out against communism, a practice called necklacing (a tire would be pressed around a person’s torso, doused in gasoline, and set a light), and planting bombs in civilian areas; Mandela – a trained lawyer – pleaded guilty to 156 accounts of terrorism and was sentenced to a life in prison but was released 27 years later due to protest. Here is where the inspiring turn around story began! Mandela went from advocating his ends with violent means to using negotiation to establish a constitution which garranteed the right of minorities, protected the sexual preferences of pedophiles (and others derrogitorally known as “perverts” in western society) , and secured the sexual rights of women by free access to abortion! The South African constitution – much credit to Mandela – is considered by many to be on the forefront of human Rights!

    • Tony Carter

      Well man, I guess we can’t argue with facts, can we? Yet, we all select the ones that make for the convenience of our truth, don’t we? I find it interesting, however, that it is always terrorism when its the oppressed against the oppressor. But when the oppressor perpetrates the same things against the oppressed (which usually instigates the response of the oppressed, by the way), then its called law.

      Mandela was no saint or savior. He was just a man for his time – a man for whom the vast majority of South Africa and most of the world is thankful, even if you’re not. That’s cool.

      Thanks for your contribution to this discussion, my man.

      • Terrence Jones

        Pastor Carter,
        You know you are one of my heroes, right? …. A long way behind Jesus of course. LOL

        • Tony Carter

          Of course! LOL!

  • Tom Brainerd

    Pastor Carter,

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    In the interests of understanding what is acceptable discourse…what is your response to communications such as Al Mohler’s piece on Mandela and Doug Wilson’s ‘open letter’ to Christian Hip Hop artists? The public apologies made by some of the men on the panel, and the fact that there were those who also ointed out their error?

    Thanks.

    Christ’s blessings on you, family and flock.

    • Tony Carter

      Hey Tom, good hearing from you again, my brother. Yeah, I read Mohler’s piece was greatly appreciative of it. Mohler struck a well reasoned tone, in my opinion. As far as Doug Wilson is concerned, I have not read his “open letter”. So I can’t comment on that one. I have, however, read a couple of apologies and do appreciate the remorse and even retraction some of those brothers made. It was good to see many in the Reformed community respond with grace and truth.

      Blessings to you and yours as well, my friend.

  • george canady

    Hey pastor Tony, I was just reading a post over at RAAN from Ian Hamond “Ignorance Is Not Excused”. I thank God for the truest truth that came through the reformers and am hopeful when it begins to get to the heart of young seminary students that will be the next generations leaders. Thank you guys for taking some of the heat for those who are to come.

  • jonathan martinez

    Tony, Im hispanic, Im reformed. Why is that not so with hispanic culture. If what you claim is true, then reformed theology would have a hard time going into hispanic circles. If Reformed theolgoy is White Theology, (which is ridiculous, since the reformers in Europe exhibited a wide array of culture and races, we have Cipriano Valera who was the equivalent of John Calvin, translated his Institutes, but has been said, that if he would have not have the spanish inquisition very well could have been Valeristas instead of Calvinists (source Emilo Monjo) It hasnt. And this is what i see. As a hispanic, i can carry much more liberation theology rhetoric i was taught in the liberal universities i attended. But then i saw the victim mentality that it bred. I am kinda of sick we have to blame the white brothers for even voicing their opinion and speak their minds.

    • george canady

      Hey Jonathan, If you have time let me encourage you to check out the post over at raannetwork.org by Ian Hammond. On another note, I’m dying to tell someone this. My wife took a picture of a stop/street sign in Lake Charles Louisiana the other day at 1st AVE and 1st Street. I think I have finally answered the question, “who’s on first”.

    • Tony Carter

      Hey Jonathan, I am encouraged to hear your passion for the truths of Reformed theology. It seems we share some of the same passion.. I praise Christ for that. However, brother, I think you may be missing my point on this one.

      I would agree with you that it is ridiculous to claim reformed theology is white theology. I don’t recall ever saying that, and never would. I also would agree with you that we don’t blame anyone for voicing their opinion and speaking their minds. In fact, I don’t blame them, any more than you blame me for speaking mine :). I am sure you would agree, however, that none of our opinions are above criticism. No plea for liberation theology here my friend – just love and equity.

      By the way, I could roll with “Valeristas” instead of “Calvinists.” After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

      Thanks for hanging today, bro.

      • jonathan martinez

        Thank you for you kind response Tony. A while back I made a comment to Dr. Anthony Bradley, in that occasion regarding the controversial piece by Propaganda on the misfactual representation of the Puritans (to my knowledge Prop made no apology, i dont know if Black Brothers stood up and denounced the character assasination, But i did notice again that if white brothers complained, the whole race card came out again and complaining about that made you a villain.). so im here, a Hispanic, on the sideline, Reading and loving the Puritans, saying “the guys wrong” but it seems that we are condemning our white brothers too much and for too long for some probably imaginary “racial prejudice baggae” thats what i hear when they pull out the word “elitism”, soo Liberation Theology, believe me. I look at my culture and because of the Gospel begin to see things in my culture that are definitely antithetical with the Gospel. Not everything in my culture should be ‘redeemed”( I recently have come to that conclusion, its been hard and painful, but necessary) , you know what i mean. Much that is built on pride, ego, fame, celebrity type focused, and how much of that is come into the church. When i came across the doctrine of the Regulative Principle, it brought much of my confusion to rest. And I am very sure that applying those principles will rule out much of my cultures very sensual, mambo, salsa, regeton music that stirs the senses for personal pleasure. When i heard the panel, those were my glasses. Not the race card glasses. That is why i heard different. Would you wear those glasses and be critical and have you been critical of your culture in that sense? Thank you for your very calm and Christ full responses.

        Your Valerista
        Jonathan Martinez

  • Michael

    Pastor Tony,

    I appreciate the article. I agree with many of your points. Many times we can’t see our own blind spots and that’s why we need to body of believers to point them out to us. I think this article does a good job of that.

    I do have a couple of questions however. I’ve been a Christian for a year and a half and reformed in my theology for about a year. One struggle that I’ve faced and that I’m sure you have faced as well is one that is sort of inline with your article. Since my conversion there have been three major “black events” in the news. Obama’s re-election, Trayvon martin trial and Nelson Mandela’s death. With each one I find it harder and harder to speak on these issues in a way that is Christ honoring. Consequently, I normally remain silent. Here are my reasons:

    Obama:
    I voted for Obama in his first term. After becoming a Christian I could not in good conscience do it again because of what he stands for. However, to not speak glowingly about him is considered “heresy” in the black community. I have periodically challenged professing Christians to really look at him in light of scripture. There is so much that I’d like to say about him that would alienate those around me and may draw attention away from the gospel. I tend to err on the side of caution and just focus on preaching Christ. How do you handle this?

    Trayvon Martin:
    When the Trayvon story first hit I was up in arms and ready to march on Florida. However, I was converted between the incident and the trial and then my thoughts began to shift towards how the gospel could have saved the young man and how his parents need to run to Christ. My hope was that the men surrounding them at that time were taking the time to counsel them biblically. However, I found it highly unlikely seeing who was surrounding them. My prayer was even for Zimmerman to find Christ because his life would never be the same no matter what the verdict. What I could not do was join in the show of solidarity (hoodies, “I am Trayvon”, etc). I did not feel that was Christ-honoring and in fact I looked at it as Christ-dishonoring. Where do you think we as Reformed Black Christians fit in on these types of issues?

    Mandela:
    I am aware of the facts of Mandela’s life prior to his imprisonment. I’m also aware of his major accomplishments afterwards. He like, Obama are both radically liberal and stand for things that I’m 100% sure that God hates. How can I, in good conscience, overlook those things and honor him with the rest of the world?

    I’m sure you’re aware of the prevailing idea the Black community we don’t down “ours” but since becoming a Christian I can’t see through those eyes anymore. I see my brothers as those who are in Christ.

    I know this may be a little off topic but I thought I’d throw it out there and see if you had any thoughts.

    Appreciate your work and what you’re doing for the kingdom via the Front Porch.

    God bless!

    • Tony Carter

      Wow Mike, it seems to me that you have thought through these things quite well. I think the best way to handle these issues is the way you have handled them. Your thoughts are clear and considerate. You place the gospel as preeminent and yet you’re thoughtful of your brothers and sisters who may not agree.

      As far as honoring Mandela is concerned, we don’t honor him by looking over his faults. I think we honor him like I would any fallen person (Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Martin Luther King, Jr, etc.) For example, I don’t overlook Dr. King’s adultery, I acknowledge where I believe he was wrong, and yet I can appreciate and even thank God for the sacrifices he made that made America a better place.

      Brother, I like your thoughts on these issues and appreciate you sharing them on the Front Porch. Come again!

  • Larry Miles

    I don’t know what to say. Wow! Tony, you nailed it. I mean you NAILED it!

  • jeremy jackson

    Well said!!!

  • Thabiti Anyabwile

    Tony,

    This is so well stated I’m surprised there are any comments other than “Amen!”

    And, your larger point (some people are kept from biblical truth by the actions and attitudes of those professing to have the truth) is not only well-stated but reveals the continuing hard work the church needs to do to understand all our inter-ethnic family. In many respects we have a long, long way to go–even though we’ve come a long, long way already. Thanks for putting the challenging truth before us!

    T-

    • george canady

      We used to have this drill in football called shotgun alley. teammates vs. teammates. Man I got my bell rung there many times. Maybe that why all the “Amen!”

  • Renee

    I hope I am not duplicating this, but I did not see it when I checked for a response.
    But, Pastor Carter my question was how do we celebrate persons who do great things such as fight for civil rights and freedoms, for the lives of unborn babies or who adopt children in war torn or poor countries, when these people don’t know Christ. And I am not saying Mr. Mandela was not a Christian, I don’t know of what his profession or belief was in. I know that God uses anyone for His purposes. But how do we celebrate a life that rejects the One true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent. I am just trying to find a right perspective. I ask this question in humility and sincerity

    • Tony Carter

      Good question Renee, and an honest one. I feel your tension and have at times experienced it myself. Yet, I am reminded that there is but one who is worthy of all praise, Jesus Christ. We don’t praise mere men. However, I do want to honor and appreciate the sacrifices many have made to make this world a better place for you and me.
      Take for example: my daughter was walking in the street and about to get hit by a car. A man runs out into the oncoming traffic, grabs my daughter, and carries her to safety. When I reach him, I may be moved to think that since he did an act of a Christian, he must be one. However, if I find out he is not a Christian, I will still be enthusiasticly thankful for this willingness to save my daughter. He doesn’t have to live his life in worship of Jesus for us to thank him and appreciate what he did for us, does he? Likewise, Mandela, does not have to be a Christian for Christians in South Africa to thank him for what he did for them. His eternal destination is up to God. Yet, still the good that he does on earth may garner our appreciation and thanksgiving.
      I hope this is helpful Renee. Thanks for stopping in on us.

  • Warner Aldridge

    Great post brother!!!

    Now before my reformed days in the church that I went to after something said like that they would say “the doors of the church are now open” LOL (You know what I mean).

    • Tony Carter

      O yeah!

      • Warner Aldridge

        I tried to visit the church while in Atlanta for Thanksgiving. I caught up with Phillip but we were unable to make it happen. I will be down in January hopefully we can meet up. I sent an email to your church email.

        • Tony Carter

          Yeah, Phil told me y’all were able to connect. Hope January works out. Would love the fellowship. Merry Christmas, bro.

  • Aaron Carpenter

    Bro. Tony, please help me understand something…

    But before I ask my question, let me say that I appreciate the theological depth of what little Reformed hip hop I have listened to, and I found the panel discussion to be an example of cultural isolationism. I’m also a bit of an admirer of Mandela, and can say confidently that most people I know probably had no idea who he was until his death made headlines.

    But more to the point, I pastor a church in rural SW Alabama, where I have been praying, preaching, and working for equality, harmony, and reconciliation among God’s people for the last 8 years or so. And something you wrote here may pose a hazard for me, so I’d like a little clarification, if possible.

    You write that the NCFIC panel, by criticizing hip hop, criticized the culture out which hip hop arises, a culture that is predominantly black. Therefore, you say, to speak disparagingly of hip hop is to speak disparagingly of the black brothers and sisters that are involved I supporting hip hop.

    Now, if you had said that it meant speaking disparagingly of ALL those supporters of hip hop, whether black or white or Hispanic or Teutonic, I might be inclined to agree with you (though I’d still have to give it some thought). But to single out one people group and make criticism of an art form an act of racial insensitivity…brother, I don’t believe that one follows the other.

    Of course, when it comes to racial insensitivity, logic is rarely the issue, and emotion and history usually hold sway. So this may be one of those things where insensitivity is in the eye of the beholder, and the offended brother is the one who gets to define the terms. Which kind of silences all white brothers from holding any critical opinions of anything remotely connected with black culture.

    That may be your point, for all I know. As a white Christian, I freely admit that there is a lot I simply cannot understand, but I humbly submit my opinion that you have created a racial issue out of something that is not inherently so. Then again, I have never personally experienced a comparable degree of racial discrimination as my black brothers and sisters have. Like I said, I need help to understand, because there is much work to be done, and I don’t want to destroy unwittingly something I would rather help build.

    • george canady

      Dear Pastor Carpenter, I’m not a pastor, just a Christian small business man here near Houston, Texas. In my area I feel welcomed into any white Church I visit. There are many white teachers Elders, Pastors, and Deacons in Those I visit. But I am hard pressed to find dark skinned men in rolls of leadership there. I am aware of the demographics argument. However, all over this area the welcome mat is out at the Wal-Mart just down the street from those churches who hold to that line of thinking, with evidence to the contrary. Could it be incentive and a sense of welcome both.

    • Tony Carter

      Hey Pastor Aaron,

      I really appreciate your comments and like hearing of your heart for the gospel, harmony, and truth. I would agree with you that the hip hop culture has more than just black people in it. However, you do understand that the article is just dealing with the dynamics of the black and white relationship within reformed circles. I am sure that other groups within hip hop were equally offended by the unfortunate remarks. I also agree with you (as i imply in the article), criticizing an art form is not in and of itself a racial issue. Criticizing hip hop is not the problem. It was the condescending tone and attitude in which the criticism was levied.

      Brother, with all due respect, I would have to disagree with you when you say I created a racial issue out of something this is not inherently so. On the contrary brother, I didn’t create a racial issue, I simply identified it. When an all white male panel speaks derogatorily and condescendingly about a culture predominantly populated by black men and women, they create the racial underlying issue. Not me. As I stated in the article, I don’t believe those brothers meant for their remarks to be racially aggravating. However, the insensitivity and tone of their remarks is what perpetuates the racial division, not me pointing it out.

      Brother, again I appreciate your comments. And even more your labors encouraging the church. May God continue blessing your efforts ().

  • William Douglas

    Thanks for this very helpful article. This helps me know how to make the “arms limit” reach a shorter distance as we work together for the glory of the One who died to make us his own. I greatly appreciate the hip hop discussion and the effort to redeem the culture at every point by finding sounding boards for saying “Jesus is Lord”

    William Douglas

  • revdavemapes

    God bless you richly,
    Tony! Again you move your pen, (as I believe not apart from grace in any sense), as speaking honestly and directly, with humility; as you point us toward the deeper heart of the issue at the center of this discussion.
    I just couldn’t get away from the thought as I read your post, ‘God has called each of us to be faithful to Him, and to do as much right as we can; regardless of whatever others have previously or presently either done or not done; right or wrong’.
    While our, (all of us sinners of any color, shape, stripe or size), knees jerk too quickly, too often; you offer sound reasonability and good sense. While we may not want to hear certain things about ourselves, you help make us want to hear it anyway.
    Thank you for your guilty verdict. We all stand convicted.
    So, while I, (we), must each be faithful to our God in all we do, we must also remember that we are also still sinners who too frequently act too sinfully in reactions and responses to the sins committed against us by other sinning sinners.
    Thank God for mercy, thank God for grace, thank God for Jesus.
    Blessings,
    David

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  • Terrance L. Thomas

    Ashe
    Amen
    Already..

    The Mandela issue in particular had me very sad and hurt. You should see the backlash Ravi Zacharis caught for writing a kind piece on Mr. Mandela.

    • Tony Carter

      Wow. Sorry to hear that about Ravi.

  • Jared Oliphint

    An excellent piece. Thanks for posting, Tony.

    • Tony Carter

      Thanks. ‘Preciate you stopping by.

  • Jeff Kessler

    If this article had ended with hip hop example I would have said “Amen!”

    But it didn’t.

    Over the years I’ve come to greatly admire Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson, Clarence Thomas, Col. Alan West, and Dr. Thomas Sowell. At the other end, my thoughts of Pres. Obama are less then admiration. As a white guy, I make these judgements based on character, accomplishments, and ideas. I make these judgements (not eternal destination judgements), the same way I do whites.

    If I, as a white guy, have to remain quiet regarding negative thoughts of Mr. Mandela, aren’t we headed in the wrong direction?

    Your article seems to take a considerable step back from the goal of MLK’s most famous speech.

    • Tony Carter

      Hey Jeff,
      Please forgive the oversight, but I don’t recall ever saying anyone has to remain quiet. As Christians, however, when we speak we do have the responsibllity of being gracious, considerate, and even loving with what we believe is true.

      Lastly, it is not my article that stands in opposition to Dr. King’s sentiments. I am quite sure Dr. King would not appreciate the way some have spoken about Mr. Mandela in the wake of Mr. Mandela’s death. I could be wrong about that, but probably not.

      Thanks Jeff. Perhaps you could have ended your comments with a hip hop example. I’m just saying.

      • Jeff Kessler

        I used the word “quiet” as an intentional exaggeration.

        It is not unusual for many opinions to be penned after a world leader dies, by the secular media and our reformed brethren. It will happen when Bill Clinton passes and when F W deKirk dies. As long as it is based on ideas, character, and accomplishments, why does the color of the skin matter? As long as they didn’t use obvious racial stereotypes (as the comments about hip hop probably did), how does opining about Mr. Mandela contribute to “keeping black Christians at arm’s length”?

        Admittedly, I haven’t read everything from white, reformed bloggers. But I have read a few. And I’ve read Cal Thomas’s piece in a World magazine. I also watched a videotape interview by Dr. Peter Hammond of Frontline Fellowship. The interview was done after Hammond and about 30,000 other pro-lifers marched in front of Mandela’s govt office, as I recall. Nothing I’ve seen or read was much different than what would follow the death of any other world leader.

        Btw, both Thomas and Hammond were able to meet and talk to Mandela.

  • PastorKenny

    Brother, well said. Your commitment to reformed theology based solely on its biblical merits is encouraging for someone like myself who as an African-American pastor is currently traveling down this lonely and bumpy path.

    • Tony Carter

      Thanks brother. We are traveling this path together! God bless.

  • Jeremy Gage

    So bombing a public square at rush hour is acting just like Jonathan Edwards. Torturing and murdering teenagers is the answer to What Would Dabney Do? Throwing a burning tire around someone’s neck while a mob dances around is the chief application of many Whitefield sermons.

    Utterly laughable. “So-called terrorism”….my foot.

    • Tony Carter

      Jeremy my man, me thinks thou dost protest too little. No one likes to have the faults of their heroes exposed. I understand your angst. I really do. But your historical myopia sorta proves my point. For that I thank you. I hope you understand, I come to bury Mr. Mandela, not to praise him. Neither do I praise Edwards, Dabney, or Whitefield either. Their perpetuation and/or defense of slavery in America is a form of terrorism I prefer not to defend. I hope you don’t either.

      By the way, you can keep your foot. I got my own foot. But thanks for the offer, my man.

    • Tony Carter

      Jeremy my man, me thinks thou dost protest too little. No one likes to the have the faults of their heroes exposed. I understand your angst. I really do. However, your historical myopia sorta proves my point. For that I thank you.
      I hope you understand, I come to bury Mr. Mandela, not to praise him. For that matter, I am not here to praise Edwards, Whitefield, or Dadney either. Their perpetuation and/or defense of slavery in America is not something I would want to defend. I hope you wouldn’t either.
      By the way, thanks for the offer but you can keep your foot. I have two of my own.
      Thanks for stopping by the Front Porch and sharing your thoughts. You’re more than welcome to do so.

      • Jeremy Gage

        The phrase “so-called terrorism” seals the deal for me. You know, I could have respect for a position that said, “Yes, he was a terrorist and killed innocents. He moved away from that later, while still believing that violence was his only available response at the time because of apartheid’s heavy hand. That’s why he would never renounce his violence. There was a lot of good in him, especially later in prison, and his cause was just. We ought to be thankful for him.”

        I could respect that. I would disagree, but we could have a conversation. That would be honest in the face of the facts, while still holding him in high esteem. You would merely be acknowledging plain fact. But you’re not being honest, and I don’t respect that.

        • Tony Carter

          i respect that.

  • Edgar Ibarra

    Pastor Tony,

    As an American born Latino and a Reformed Presbyterian I greatly appreciate your words and insights. Much of this can apply to other minorities embracing the Reformed Faith in America. I have observed this first hand. As you can imagine the immigration issue and debate on this by many fellow White brothers (hey some Black brothers too, eh!) tends to alienate and make for an uncomfortable environment for other Latinos that may be listening to such debate. It is safe to say that just about every Latino knows an undocumented immigrant, many times it is a family member or close friend. Imagine when such conversations turn ugly. I am in Spanish ministry, translating Reformed and Puritan works into Spanish. This ministry has been well received. However I get asked many times by fellow Latino brothers, “but weren’t many of those Presbyterians and Puritans racists and defended slavery? Why promote them?” You address this well in your comments. Not all of them (Puritans) were this way for sure, but there were some. But it is because the Reformed Faith is Biblical that I embrace it, not because at the moment it is embraced mainly by Europeans. We all need to work to look past “race” and view the common adoption that we all have in Christ and respect our fellow brothers regardless of culture. Sure we need to address our sins, but do so with the goal of restoring a brother and in building up the Body.

    • Tony Carter

      Brother, your words are spot on! Thanks for stepping on to the Porch and joining the conversation. It is voices like yours that need to be heard more often in our circles. Glad we had the opportunity to hear it today. C’mon up again!

    • geoffrobinson

      People tend to be very good at picking out the blind spots of people who have been dead for hundreds of years and very poor at picking out their own. I wonder how the people you run into understand the Old Testament and New Testament in regards to slavery. Do they reject it? Or do they have a more nuanced understanding?

      In regards to immigration, let me lay my cards on the table. My Italian grandmother and great-grandfather were illegal immigrants. They weren’t undocumented. My great-grandfather broke the law.

      Has anyone in ministry mentioned to these immigrants that they are breaking the law or are they afraid to do so? It would probably go better for their case if they said “I know we’re breaking the law, we’re asking for some mercy” instead of demanding legalization. I think that’s why those conversations can go ugly and why there isn’t progress on the issue. Just my thoughts which I guess aren’t worth too much.

  • geoffrobinson

    If on the panel they said heavy metal and ska was not appropriate for worship, would anyone have cared?

  • wally

    Affirmative black destruction actionees must now be deported back to Africa: there they can create or just admire wastelands, which is what they do best, obviously Alan Keyes, Star Parker and the handful of normal educated blacks (but not Obathhouse and his Moomoo cover) could stay.
    Away with them!
    Save America! Deport an African Quntamerican back to Africa today!

  • John S.

    People are stupid, insensitive, unaware and sometimes downright evil. You would think that those that claim the Reformed view would realize that Total Depravity applies to them as well and speak a bit more humbly. Its a pity reformed meetings/groups too often resemble a debating society than a church. While correct doctrine is necessary for correct belief and correct action; correct doctrine does not guarantee either. The Reformed have to stop being the “frozen chosen”.

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  • http://lifeseek.org/ lifeseek

    I think that the tone of this article is true for the way most Caucasian churches are cultured. This article can be applied outside the subject of “Reformed Theology.” I do believe that, most times, people are ignorant of their own biases — yes, that include black people. People’s cultural environment suppress observations of themselves and their world view. It’s harder for a white person to see their own culture bias when their surrounded by an entire institution that is white. In my personal experience I find it awkward how Caucasian Christians embrace black Christians when they visit, or join, a church. The feeling of superficiality is the usual pretense I get when visiting a predominantly white churches. The same can be said for black church, I’m sure. Nevertheless, we make our best attempts to be christian and love people who identify themselves as Christians! — lifeseek.org

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  • Karen Doyle Harris

    My husband and I are the parents of 9 children. We are a bi-racial family- black and white. We also go to a Reformed church and our oldest 4 teens are a hip hop group called the Praise Warriors. One of the children in our Sunday school class said that his parents won’t let him listen to our CD because it is rap music. Interestingly enough, we do what we have coined “Scrip’Hop”- which is the Word sung and rapped to music. We have whole CHAPTERS of the Word rapped on our CD. I wasn’t really sure how to handle the situation. Do people really believe that if you say the Scriptures quickly and poetically with some bass in the background that it isn’t God honoring? I see this unconscious bias, and wonder what my part to play is. How do I open dialogue? In the meantime, we are beginning to record our 2nd CD and are looking forward to taking the Scriptures and our Reformed Theology to where ever the Lord leads.

  • jason scroggins

    Im impressed that this conversation stayed so civil!
    Good article Tony! It just goes to show that none of us are righteous, only Christ!
    I have been considering the actions of my heroes in the faith. When I first found out about dr king’s infidelity and jonathan edward’s ownership of slaves, I was outraged. But when I thought about the weight of what I was putting on these men, I had to take a step back and realize that they are human too, not deity. My faith must be in Christ, not in men, because we are BROKEN.
    As far as this panel on christian hip hop, this is absurd. Why is it that panels like these are typically filled with older white guys? Why not ask shai linne to be on that panel? It seems like we want to protect our ideals, so we discuss these things with people who share our ideals. Looks more like these guys are scared to embrace something new.

    Awesome post, thanks for being a solid voice!

    • george canady

      Jason, I agree this is a civil conversation. I am a learner with you.

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  • http://thereignofchrist.com/ Jason L Bradfield

    Here’s the problem i have with Mr. Carter’s article: there is an assumption that ALL blacks would approve of rap music and Nelson Mandela.

    And if that is not the assumption, then why point to these two reactions as some sort of proof that some whites want to alienate blacks, seeing that ‘being black’ had nothing to do with either? If those same 6 men were black and responded the exact same way, would Mr. Carter have written an article entitled, “Blacks Keeping Black Christians At Arm’s Length”? Why do i seriously doubt it?

    Now, if you think there are no Black Christian leaders who have a problem with rap music, then you simply need to get out more. In the mid to late 90′s, i got heavily involved in street ministry; door to door evangelism, speaking to groups, and usually rapping three or four songs i wrote. I didn’t specifically target ‘black’ neighborhoods…i just went to places where i felt like my ‘circle of friends’ were avoiding, usually out of concern for ‘safety.’ And it just so happened, that many of those places were predominantly black, especially the projects in New Orleans.

    And guess what? One of the most discouraging things that i consistently came up against were many local black pastors who would not get behind what i was doing because they either (A) thought rap music was of the devil and i was being too ‘wordly’ and/or (B) that as a white guy, i had no business interfering with ‘their turf.’ I kid you not.

    In fact, I would venture to say that i ran into MORE BLACK PASTORS who had a problem with me rapping than white pastors. Those are simply the facts.

    And we know there are black ministers, some working in South Africa even, who have serious reservations about Mandela. Just youtube it.

    So, back to Mr. Carter: why are these two reactions being made into a ‘black and white’ thing when there clearly are black Christians who dislike rap and Mandela? Isn’t this ‘stereotyping’ assumption the very thing we are fighting?

    Are those Black Pastors who oppose the ‘wordly form of Rap music’ guilty of keeping their own at ‘arm’s length?’

    Why not?

    • Carol Noren Johnson

      Good points, Jason. I think of which says “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.” If rappers, black or white, win others through their message, then the gospel is being proclaimed to both black and white.

  • Brett Maragni

    Brilliant. Clear. Irenic. Accurate.
    Thanks!

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  • Trent whalin

    Give me a break with the Mandela crap. Mandela killed innocent civilians. He is not a African Americans. Why can’t there be a role model is who not black? He is no Washington. He was a military leader who did not kill civilians or hide behind them. He is a South African bin Laden. If we somehow alienate them using the truth or our opinion they should look up the truth.

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  • Matt B

    Tony, Do you think that the criticism of hip-hop/rap (not necessarily the panel) by caucasians is seen as an inherent RACIAL attack instead of a criticism of a certain type of cultural expression that some see as toxic? If I – as a Caucasian Christian – find something disturbing about acid rock/heavy metal music – not merely the lyrics – but the musical form, I perceive that criticism, while not agreed with, is listened to, heard, etc. If I were to venture the same criticism – perhaps on the same grounds – of rap/hip-hop, then there is a suspicion of racism. This, in effects, makes black cultural expressions above critique – at least for some.

    A second issue: a young man I know recently confessed to struggling with swearing, vulgarity, etc. He’s a nice young man, gives amply evidence of being converted, and so forth. When we attempted to ‘drill down’ and find the genesis of the problem (beyond sinful pride – something more concrete), he said, ‘Well, I started listening to “Christian rap” and that was good… but then I bought a Macklemore CD… then Pitbull… and I found swearing becoming so easy…”

    In the same way, in the white community, folks tried to do ‘Christian metal’ (and still are, with less-than-convincing results in my opinion), could (is) Christian rap serving as either 1) a ‘gateway’ step for some to get into hardcore rap or 2) just a cheap rip-off of more talented ‘secular’ rappers’ styles, beats, etc. by subbing in clean/theological lyrics to similar/identical ‘music’?

    I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    Respectfully,
    Matt

  • itshome

    Some time has passed for this article, but it comes to mind again today. I appreciate the discussion, and reading through the comments pulls out some good thought and may even lead to my own.

    I think I’m distracted away from your thesis by the examples. Hip Hop was a great example, I remember when the church was against was rock-n-roll. However, I’m still scratching my head on the Mandela and historic white reformed church comparisons. It seems these and others neither can be, nor should be defended. You asked, “Are we willing to also label these churches as “terrorist organizations?” Well, my short answer would be, most certainly! For those (churches and people) involved during those times! To not do so seems to nuance the facts and permit calling good evil, and evil good.

    The timing of the reformed speakers may be suspect, and certainly could be misplaced if scrutinizing others while ignoring their own history; but the Mandela story, at the time, was a current event (not defending here, trying to explain my question). It seems commentary on Washington’s affairs would do little positive to your main theme. However, I’m can see how the Mandela comments made by those folks were not helpful, that is, to advance the gospel, or bring reconciliation.

    During the media presentations, I desired to understand how the world could hail Mandela, forgetting his younger years and why he was imprisoned, while Arafat went to the grave without celebration. Both were fighting as you mentioned, and just causes in their thinking. The difference I’m seeing is, one was victorious in their cause. But can the end justify the means?

    However, I think you are making a case for people, and especially church leaders, to be careful about the implications of their words, both the content and the timing. I’m trying to do so as I write, though I fear I may not be successful. And, maybe, these people and church leaders would see these implications derived from their words, and from their hearts, and would be changed, and we all would be one, even as Jesus and the Father are one.

    Thank you for writing. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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