Georgia’s Voting Rights Law

A few weeks ago, I heard a wise woman refer to listening as “attending well.” I’m praying I “attend well” to my brothers’ and sisters’ objections to Georgia’s new voting rights law.

I love Atlanta, Georgia, my former home of 35 years. I love the city’s bright lights and impressive architecture. I love the Fox Theatre, the Atlanta Braves, the High Museum, Georgia State University, and the Capitol. I love Parkview Church and its people. I love my former neighbors and my former neighborhood. But I feel grave concern for my non-white friends and spiritual family.

I want to understand, and I want to respect, the threatened feelings of my non-white brothers and sisters. I don’t want to dismiss, minimize, or rationalize alarmed reactions to the new voting rights law.

Before I learned about the new law, I listened to a webinar hosted by Mission to North America (MNA),* an agency connected with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).** The Christian agency hosted a webinar titled “Christ Presbyterian Academy: Journey to Intercultural Development.”*** The speakers comprised the academy’s leadership, employees, and MNA’s intercultural coaches.

In humility, prayer, and Bible study, the academy’s leadership listened to the students’ families, employees, and MNA’s intercultural coaches. Commitment to long-term relationships, enabled by God’s grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, resulted.

I want to follow the academy leadership’s example. I want to follow MNA’s example. I want to listen, in the spirit of humility, prayer, and Bible study. I want to receive ongoing coaching, teaching, and training. By God’s grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I want to foster long-term relationships, and I want to “attend well” to objections of the new voting rights law.

May God continue to bless Christ Presbyterian Academy. May God continue to bless MNA. May God bless my non-white sisters and brothers. May God bless efforts to “attend well,” and may He grow desire to do so.

* Mission to North America https://pcamna.org

**Presbyterian Church in America https://pcanet.org

***”Christ Presbyterian Academy: Journey to Intercultural Development.”** https://youtu.be/BXGE6fCUtKk

Need v. Want

Philippians 4:11b -13 “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.”

I don’t know how to be content in any and every situation. I don’t know how to face hunger. I don’t know how to face the elements without shelter. I don’t know how to face the day with one pair of clothes and one pair of shoes. I don’t know how, because I don’t have to.

When I use the word “need” for a new pair of shoes, it’s a lie. When I say I need earbuds, it’s a lie. When I say I need a printer, it’s a lie. My needs are met, and that is not a lie.

Dear Lord,

Please forgive me for lying. Please help me be honest, and please help me be content.

“I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength,” and that is not a lie. Praise Your High and Holy Name.

Amen.

Breonna and Babies

Breonna Taylor’s life was equal in value to the babies whose lives ended in the womb. 

Ahmaud Arbery’s life was equal in value to the babies whose lives ended in the womb.

George Floyd’s life was equal in value to the babies whose lives ended in the womb.

Every black woman, black man, and black child is equal in value to every baby in the womb.

O God, cleanse our hearts, minds, and hands.  Please fill us with overflowing love and compassion for our fellow human beings, regardless. . .

Apology to a Post-abortive Woman

Dear Young Woman,

I am guilty of hurting you, and as a result, I am guilty of hurting the Lord. In my attempts to live a godly life, I am guilty of living a proud and self-righteous life. I am wrong.

I compare my sins to yours, and I think myself less guilty. I am wrong. I judge your actions, overlooking your pain, and I am wrong. My eyes are blinded to my guilt, and I am wrong.

My blindness blocks my path to repentance, and I feel sad. My lack of repentance pushes you away, and I feel regret. Regret leads me to lament; lament leads me to the Lord; and the Lord brings me to you.

So, I come to you, embarrassed and regretful. Please forgive me. I hope you can, and I hope you will.

Humbly,

Rachel Bird

Voting

Dear Fellow Christians,

I am one of you, and each of us, along with the rest of humanity, is the Lord’s beautiful creation, planned and desired before the creation of the world.  We are created in God’s own image, and as His creation, He sees us as “very good” (Genesis 1:26-28, 31).

The Lord has blessed us with diverse colors of skin, cultures, nations of origin, and ages (conception to old age).  We are male or female, and some of us possess physical and/or emotional challenges.  Some of us are citizens; others are immigrants.  Our incomes, skills, and jobs vary.  We hold different political views, and we worship in different ways.  Some of us are powerless and vulnerable, but each of us possess inherent dignity and worth.  

Deuteronomy 6:5 states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus, in John 13:34, 35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I feel miserable, because I don’t know how to love God, and each of you, well.  We are pitted against one another over the evils of racial hatred and abortion.  We have divided into political camps, and we are disunified, angry, defensive, and hurting.  

John 14:6 is our hope: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ “

When the disciples of Jesus saw only the Romans as enemies, He saw the greater threat–the greatest threat.  Satan and Sin.  Where God’s people saw only one way, God created another Way, the only Way.

O, God, I thank You for revealing Your Way.  I now beg You to show us Your way.  Please show us the way we cannot see by the light and power of the Way we already know.  

In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Racial Hatred

The following race riots–thirteen in all–occurred in the United States between 1991-2020.

New York, NY (1991); Miami, FL (1991); Los Angeles, CA (1992); St. Petersburg, FL (1996); Cincinatti, OH (2001); Oakland, CA (2009); Anaheim, CA (2012); Ferguson, MO (2014); Baltimore, MD (2015); Milwaukee, WI (2016); Charlotte, NC (2016); Charlottesville, VA,* (2017); and Minneapolis, MN (2020).*

In 2017, Ed Stetzer, Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, wrote an article in Christianity Today magazine, which focused on the riot in Charlottesville, VA. The piece was titled “#Charlottesville, the Christian Response, and Your Church’s Call: Silence on matters of hatred and bigotry is antithetical to the gospel.”*

Stetzer advised church leaders to prayerfully address racial hatred in three ways. Below, I list Stetzer’s recommendations in bold type (The commentary is my own.).

1. Seek the face of God individually, and collectively.

I don’t want to see myself as a person who hates others, but in the stillness of prayer and scripture reading, I must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth. Several years ago, an African American speaker at a Just Gospel conference encouraged Christians not to fear confession of racism, because Jesus forgives and redeems His people. The speaker reminded us, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

The speaker’s words freed me to ask myself (and God), “Do I hate? If so, whom do I hate? Why do I hate? Am I active or passive in my hatred? Do I foment hatred in others? If my emotions and views don’t rise to the level of hatred, do I justify negative feelings and perspectives? Where do my negative feelings and perspectives originate?”

Some answers felt painful, but God’s free grace cleansed, healed, and restored me to Himself, as well as to my fellow human beings (1 Peter 5:10). The process continues: I struggle; the Holy Spirit convicts; I confess; I repent; God forgives; and God restores. The process feels painful, but my hope and joy grow. Praise His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6)!

My denomination addressed historical racism with overtures of confession and repentance in 2016, and in 2018, the first African American was selected moderator of the general assembly! On the contrary, one percent of my denomination’s teaching elders (ordained pastors) are African American.* In God’s strength and power, we press on (Philippians 3:14)!

2. Condemn bigotry, hate, and discrimination from the pulpit and through each ministry in the Church. 

Stetzer wrote, “our silence on issues of injustice is sin.” Stetzer later continues, “this is not about politics or free speech. It is about evil and the gospel that defeats it. The time to stand up—and speak up—is now.”

In 2014, an African American told his pastor he couldn’t attend a church where the pulpit neither acknowledged nor addressed the shooting of Michael Brown*. The man’s pastor then asked him to lead a series of classes pursuing racial reconciliation, and a healthy interchange among parishioners ensued. Black parishioners emphasized their desire for white Christians’ support and defense against unkind and unjust treatment, not just when publicized events occur, but during day-to-day interactions, too.

Again, I ask, “Do I defend persons of color when slandered or slighted? Do I intervene when a person or group is treated unfairly? Do I minimize the impact of unkind, prejudicial, and discriminatory words and actions toward people of color? Do I invalidate experiences unfamiliar to me? Do I hold my civil and elected leaders accountable for decisions and actions affecting people of color? Do I advocate for justice in the legal system (e.g., prison reform and fair sentencing laws)?”

Churches and denominations may ask, “How do we respond/not respond to societal and cultural views of non-white people? How do we protect, defend, and care for people of color? Are we partisan in our approaches toward people of color? What are we willing/not willing to do in our services and ministries to engage people of color? Do we value and seek input from people of color about church life and activity? Do we seek and affirm non-white leadership? Are we educating ourselves and our congregants about racial reconciliation? How can we foster change?”

3. Reach out to targets [of racial hatred].

Establishing cross-cultural relationships before crises occur is key, because healthy relationships require trust, which develops over time. Who wants to divulge fragile feelings and circumstances to strangers or acquaintances? Not me, and probably not people of color.

If and when needs are expressed, Caucasians need genuine humility. Assuming knowledge of non-white needs and resources disrespects non-white leaders, who possess emergency response systems and support services designed for their people. We can love through service, yet in a way people of color request.

Most importantly, pray!

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If My people, who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

O Great God*

O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore

I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys

Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace

Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face
You are worthy to be praised

With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me

You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me

Amen.

*https://www.nytimes.com/article/ahmaud-arbery-shooting-georgia.html

*https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2020/05/28/george-floyd-remembered-gentle-giant-family-calls-death-murder/5265668002/

*https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/white-supremacists-plead-guilty-to-rioting-in-charlottesville

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_racial_violence_in_the_United_States#Timeline_of_events

*https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/august/charlottesville-christ-and-your-church-how-pastors-might-re.html

*http://www.christianitydaily.com/articles/8245/20160628/presbyterian-church-america-pca-approves-overtures-confessing-repenting

*aampca.org

*Song by Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music