More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.
America has the world’s highest rate of incarceration, currently 738 per 100,000. Our nearest competitor for this dubious distinction is the Russian Federation with 607 and Cuba with 487. “The USincarcerates at a rate 4 to 7 times higher than other western nations such as the United Kingdom,France, Italy, and Germany and up to 32 times higher than nations with the lowest rates such as Nepal, Nigeria, and India.”
Despite possible protestations that this is because we have the best law enforcement, my sense is that the reasons lie more in the system, than those who enforce it. No one ever lost an election in America because of the perception they “were tough on crime”. http://www.civilrights.org/publications/justice-on-trial
“Race: Black males continue to be incarcerated at an extraordinary rate. Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population — even though they make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population. Four percent of U.S. black males were in jail or prison last year, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and .7 percent of white males. In other words, black males were locked up at almost six times the rate of their white counterparts.”
These two sets of statistics when viewed together tell a terrible tale of how racial oppression still exists in this country despite our Black President and Black Attorney General. This Administration hasn’t caused of this problem, but they don’t seem to have made any progress dealing with it. We do know that there has been a widespread effort to play down the racial division that continues to plague this country. This continues despite Civil Rights Laws, Martin Luther King’s Birthday and TV beer commercials that always include at least one black male friend enjoying the camaraderie. Clearly there is a disconnect between how we Americans want to see ourselves and the reality for many Black males. I’m focusing on the problem of black males in this piece, rather than the general oppression of Black people, because the effect of this process is a function of the general racist climate of this country and is a major contributor to the continuance of this oppression. There have often been discussions on this blog about the devastating effects of the “War on Drugs” and this quote is illustrative of the tenor of theses discussions.“Nationwide, black males convicted of drug felonies in state courts are sentenced to prison 52 percent of the time, while white males are sentenced to prison only 34 percent of the time. The ratio for women is similar – 41 percent of black female felony drug offenders are sentenced to prison, as compared to 24 percent of white females. With respect to violent offenses, 74 percent of black male convicted felons serve prison time, as opposed to only 60 percent of white male convicted felons. With respect to all felonies, 58 percent of black male convicted felons, as opposed to 45 percent of white men, serve prison sentences”.
It is clear to me that racism exists today in America, despite supposed gains and that this disparity in the treatment of race is not only devastating to Black people, but its continuance is disastrous for our entire society. The degeneration of our political system during the last five decades may not be solely due to racial prejudice, but those who have helped bring it about certainly have used racism to empower their viewpoints, even as their rhetoric has shifted from overt to covert. I’m moved to write this because I believe that unless this problem becomes accepted in our public consciousness, there will be no escape from the downward trend of our nation towards political and economic disaster.
I’ve presented enough evidence of the racialist tendency of our system and the reader either will accept what it suggests, or substitute their own pre-judgments of what these statistics mean. My discussion focuses on how this reality impacts upon Black people in America and thus impacts us all, despite our race and/or ethnicity. What set me off thinking about this was a TV Program called “Our America” with Lisa Ling. The episode was entitled “The Incarceration Generation”. http://www.oprah.com/own-our-america-lisa-ling/our-america-video.html
Personally, this episode brought up an admixture of tears and anger as I watched. It showed the life arcs of some Black males about to be released from prison, the effects on their families of their incarceration and then by their release. The premise, which I endorse, is that this generation of jailed Black men will, and has already impacted on the coming generation of Black men. The message was we must somehow stop this cycle, but the solution to stopping the cycle is not clear macro-cosmically and too slow if change is measured person by person.
As much as I’m prone to pontification, I really can see only one way that this continued racism is ever going to change. To the possible delight of our more conservative and/or libertarian commenter’s, I don’t believe that the first step towards this change would benefit from government intervention via legislation or fiat. While the original issue decided in “Brown vs. Board of Education“, that Blacks and Whites were receiving unequal schooling due to segregation and unequal funding, the general judicial remedy which became School Busing was not only in hindsight a failure, but actually increased tension between races and diminished White support for Civil Rights. It was a decision that tried to solve the problem cheaply, rather than first ensuring that the funding for Black and White (indeed all) schoolchildren was equivalent. How much more elegant to have hoisted the segregationists on their own petard of “separate but equal”, than to have demanded and overseen that they indeed provided equal funding
and support to Black schools. I understand that this was not the remedy being requested in this suit, but looking back it might have been a far more effective strategy. All of the gains in White sympathy for the struggle of Black people for their Constitutional freedom, were negated when the sad results of hundreds of years of slavery was dumped upon the educational systems specifically of the working classes. It resulted in the “Southern Strategy” that got Richard Nixon elected, using code words in place of outright racist rhetoric. Fighting crime became the code for cracking down on Blacks and the upward spiral of the incarceration of Americans began with the inception of the ridiculous “War on Drugs”. When people are steeped in false, bigoted notions of the “other”, reinforced by a corporate media that finds sensationalizing crime garners profits, minds won’t be changed by legislation.
Certainly, steps must be taken to end the “War on Drugs”, to deal with racist law enforcement issues and to ensure that each American, regardless of skin color and/or ethnicity, is afforded equal rights under our Constitution. But first, before any palliatives are presented by our politicians, the problem of America’s continuing racism and its disproportionate effect on Black males must be brought into the open, discussed and hopefully acknowledged. Without that nothing changes since racism cannot be obliterated by enforcement, it merely morphs underground where it nevertheless festers. It is preferable to directly know ones’ enemies by their words, than to have those beliefs covered up.
Among the great ironies of modern America is how bigots have learned to couch their bigotry in terms that are inherently dishonest, yet provide them verbal cover when challenged. At times, among the less controlled public voices like Limbaugh or Beck it, their bigotry comes through, but even then they will cry foul if they are called on it and pretend that charging them with bigotry is absurd and bigoted in itself. When people are accused of “playing the race card”, the accuser is probably racist, knowingly or unknowingly. I think that many refuse to personally acknowledge their own bigotry, knowing rationally it is wrong, yet they find comfort and cover in the hypocrisy of code words and denial, from even themselves.
The other effect of incarceration of Black men disproportionately, is that it then becomes extremely difficult to obtain jobs after their release. As one man put it on the Lisa Ling show “Would you hire a former felon?”. We’ve set up a system where recidivism is the norm for all prisoners and this is mainly because after serving ones sentence, there are far less opportunities to find gainful employment. I know this from personal experience since my father served time for a “white collar” crime before my birth and his whole working/economic life was affected until his death 20 years later. He was White, had a massive vocabulary and a dynamic personality. He could never get credit and a family member had to co-sign in order to get a mortgage for our house. My father earned a good living as a car salesman, but his many attempts at starting his own business was affected by an inability to obtain adequate financing due to his prior incarceration. My father had many advantages over many black men with criminal histories, but the primary one was his skin color
When you perpetuate a system that incarcerates such a large swath of the Black male population, sentences them disproportionately to other racial/ethnic groups and prevents them from going straight after they’ve served their time, you create instability and chaos within the Black community. The evil history of slavery and racism remains with us today. Until we acknowledge the reality of how it perpetuates itself, it will never cease and our country will continue its’ downward spiral of economic disparity and debilitating racial/ethnic tension.
What you are about to see is happening in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural. It’s not fair. It’s not making us any safer. It’s wasting valuable resources. And it’s taking a toll on thousands of lives every year.
As federal and state correctional institutions steadily release record numbers of ex-offenders each year, the communities into which prisoners are released are unprepared to sustain the economic and social burden of the massive reentry movement. As a result, reentering ex-offenders lack the support needed to reintegrate themselves into society and to lead productive, law-abiding lives. This blog first explores political trends that account for the increase in incarceration rates over the last two decades and the resulting social, legal, and economic challenges of reentry both ex-offenders and their communities face. Only recently has the government begun to respond to these problems by establishing reentry courts that specialize in ex-offender transition, support, and supervision. After questioning the efficiency and institutional competence of reentry courts, the Article suggests two alternative ways in which the legal community might help to manage ex-offender reentry. First, public defender offices could evolve into a less specialized and more integrated role through which they could represent ex-offenders in a variety of matters related to reentry. Second, law schools could provide students with clinical opportunities through which to explore creative, non-traditional solutions to representation of ex-offenders. Ultimately, collaboration between lawyers and communities will be necessary to provide ex-offenders with the resources they need for successful reintegration.
The distance between a prison and an ex-offender’s home community generally can be traversed by bus. But this conventional form of transportation masks the real distance the ex-offender must travel from incarceration to a successful reintegration into her community. Indeed, in many ways, the space that she must cross is more akin to what one imagine takes place in time travel. The ex-offender, of course, remains the one constant throughout the trip across time. She/He possesses the personal strengths and weaknesses that she/he has always had. But because time has effectively stood still for her, she has no real frame of reference for the changes she will encounter. Armed with little more than her own instincts and innate abilities, she is thrust instantaneously into a world that is at once foreign and intimidating in its differences and complexities. Her home community barely resembles that which she left behind. Yet, more than physical changes await her. The community that she enters has undergone significant economic, technological, and social changes that perhaps its insider now takes for granted, but that will be all too apparent to our time traveler—the outsider. The insider will be familiar with the norms of conduct, the formal and informal structures that exist in this environment, and the relationships that govern how residents interact and thrive. The outsider will not know the rules. And yet, we will expect the ex-offender—the quintessential stranger in a strange land—to enter this dramatically different environment and simply fit in without information, without significant support, and without meaningful preparation. If she does not manage to succeed on her own, she must then face the ultimate consequence—a return to her own time, a return to prison.
Second Chance Alliance has two ex-offenders that have traveled this road. We are proud to say that having this testimony has afforded us the knowledge needed to assist others. We are well on our way to be a positive motivating force within our surrounding communities as a solution to the re-entry dilemma for ex-offenders. We have a series of work shops coming out in April to inform the chosen populous of individuals. We will be hosting hair cuts and clothing, food baskets for the individuals and families. We will also have several of our partners hosting dental screenings and health awareness workshops. There are several job referrals and educational initiatives for the offering also.
Community Emergency Shelter
Single Men & Women
This shelter is a 30-60 day program that serves adults by providing temporary housing along with assistance in obtaining important documents, job readiness, computer workshops, counseling, meals, hygiene supplies and bible studies. This program holds 129 beds for qualified single men and women with separate dormitories for each gender. This facility is managed by Shelter Director Toni Adkins, who leads a paid staff of 17 full and part-time employees to facilitate this year-round emergency shelter.
Address:2840 Hulen Place, Riverside, CA 92507 (951) 683-4101
Hours of Operation:
4:00 pm-8:30 am. Initial intake and screening Mon, Wed, Fri at 1:00 pm
Family Emergency Shelter
This 60-90 day program is offered to single parents with children, couples with children and single women. It offers a safe haven to help families move toward self-reliance, where case management focuses on rapid re-housing, employment and increased income. It is a dormitory setting with 50 beds. Proof of custody, social security numbers for all members and identifications for adults are required for entry. Clients are provided with life skills workshops, meals, showers and laundry facilities. Case managers can also assist with finding housing and employment, identifying income issues and starting a savings plan. This facility is managed by Shelter Director Toni Adkins, who leads a paid staff of 10 full and part-time employees.
Address:2530 Third Street, Riverside, CA 92507 (951) 275-8755 (951) 275-8755 Hotline
Hours of Operation:
4:00 pm-7:45 am
Single Men & Women
This 12-24 month program is designed to help men and women recover from homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and other dysfunctional behaviors. Its focus is a year of discipleship recovery with an optional additional year of “re-entry.” Using a biblical curriculum to help expose the underlying roots of addiction, the program brings healing and closure to the past and builds a new foundation for the future. Staff members provide reinforcement in the participant’s decision to change his or her lifestyle, requiring them to attend anger management, life skills and marriage/family counseling in a Christian-based 12-step program. There are 3 sober living recovery homes with a total of 60 beds. These programs are managed by Program Director Juan Salinas who oversees these homes with the assistance of each location’s live-in Resident Manager.
Address:The men’s recovery home is located in Murrieta, CA, while the women’s home and men’s re-entry home are located in Riverside, CA
Hours of Operation:
24 hours a day
Path of Life is the only organization in the Riverside area offering healthcare services to the homeless. We offer our healthcare services at sites where homeless people congregate without regard to their ability to pay. These sites include shelters, soup kitchens, and drop-in centers. We also have a fully mobile RV equipped with two exam rooms we call ‘Health in Motion’. Finally, we offer a Street Medicine Program that sends a medical team straight to the locations that the most hard to reach and vulnerable homeless individuals congregate. We provide basic primary care, chronic disease management, cancer screening, laboratory services for testing, pharmaceuticals, eye care, and dental. Over 35 physician and nurse volunteers offer their services in this program, led by Medical Director Dr. Moses.
There’s a time in your life where you’re not quite sure where you are. You think everything’s perfect, but it’s not perfect… Then one day you wake up and you can’t quite picture yourself in the situation you’re in. But the secret is, if you can picture yourself doing anything in life, you can do it.
My imperfect state;
Crocked smile,round belly, ingrown toe nails, negative thoughts, pridefulness, stubbornest, jealousy, envy, over compulsion disposition,impatience,unforgiving,addictions to foods and other things not good for me or my temple. There are many more issues with me that I care not to be transparent about at this time.
Most of the world’s successful models are pencil thin and for ads in magazines and posters, their faces and bodies are touched up so that they look perfect. Sadly, millions of girls and women measure themselves against these impossible standards and come up short. We saw this recently in America the Beautiful, a documentary by Darryl Roberts. He notes that in 2004 alone, Americans spent 12.4 billion dollars on cosmetic surgery. Mothers are now putting children as young as five on diets or paying for breast implants for their 15-year-old daughters. In Korea, facelifts and other surgeries have reached epidemic numbers. These are but a few of the indicators of a worldwide obsession with physical perfection fueled by the fashion and entertainment industries.
During the Olympic Games in Beijing, we realized that the sports world is also fixated on perfection. Most of the stories focused on a few stars who managed to win Gold Medals with nearly flawless performances. We felt sorry for the other competitors who had worked hard and deserved their time in the spotlight just for showing up.
Is there another way of looking at all this? The Western ideal of beauty usually salutes things that are perfect, pretty, lasting, or spectacular. But in Japan, there is an emphasis on wabi-sabi, an aesthetic stemming from Taoism and Zen Buddhism that honors the simple and the unpretentious (wabi) and the beauty that comes with age or much use (sabi). In this view, simplicity, naturalness, and fragility are valued. Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, defines it as “a beauty of all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is the beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional.”
We all have objects in our home that are imperfect and beautiful: an old chair that has been with us for years, a faded tablecloth brought out for special occasions, a piece of jewelry that has been repaired. They all have wabi-sabi. In Dwellings, Linda Hogan recognizes the beauty of imperfection in an old rake:
“My own fragile hand touches the wood, a hand full of my own life, including that which rose each morning early to watch the sun return from the other side of the planet. Over time, these hands will smooth the rake’s wooden handle down to a sheen.”
What an incredible image of beauty: a rake handle worn down through use over the years. We think of other images that make the same point: cancer patients with bald heads, elders with plenty of wrinkles, a dog hobbling valiantly on three legs. We also salute groups of nonprofessionals who are far from perfect but whose spirit is carried in their performance: church choirs, amateur theater troupes, school bands, and local crafts groups. They are living examples of what poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen says in Stranger Music:
Ring the bells that can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
In many spiritual traditions, artists deliberately leave a mistake in a handmade object to signify that they know that they cannot make perfection; only God is perfect. We’ve heard this about Navajo rings and Persian rugs. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reverences the beauty in garbage. Following his lead, Barbara Ann Kipfer offers this gatha:
“In the garbage, I see beauty. In beautiful things, I see the garbage. One cannot exist without the other.”
The wabi-sabi things of our lives are spiritual teachers opening our eyes to our own impermanence and mortality. You probably have a teapot, a treasured ornament, or some other family heirloom that has been passed down through the generations. It has, as the saying goes, “seen better days,” but it still has the ability to touch your heart.
As a spiritual practice, take one of those items and reflect upon it. What makes it beautiful? Is it a shape, a color, a texture? Do you admire it because it is worn smooth with age? Or is it beautiful because it evokes certain feelings in you? Perhaps it reminds you of the person who gave it to you or shared it with you?
“Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else,” writes Koren. “Beauty can spontaneously occur at any given moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”
An experience of beauty can also usher us into an amplified appreciation of the divine presence, that “something more” in our existence. Yes, God’s handiwork is evident in the glorious vistas of nature and the beautiful people and things that literally take our breath away. But God is also evident in and through the imperfect, the humble, the modest, and the unconventional. Indeed, these things may be the most accessible samples of divine grace.
God selected Jacob and chose him to be His expression as a prince of God, and Jacob went through a long process of transformation and maturity to become one who not only wrestles with God but also is a prince of God, expressing God and representing Him on earth.
It is amazing to see in the life of Jacob how a supplanter and a cheater was dealt with and broken to become a prince of God, someone honorable, mature, and lofty. All his life, Jacob struggled: he struggled with his brother even from his mother’s womb, he struggled to get the birthright and the blessing, he struggled with Laban to get Rachel and was cheated by Laban, etc.
Outwardly Jacob was struggling with people and situations, but inwardly he was actually struggling with God. As one who struggled with God, Jacob was dealt with and broken to be transformed and become Israel, the prince of God (Gen. 32:28).
God’s purpose in dealing with Jacob was to transform him into Israel, one who bears God’s image to express Him and exercises His dominion to represent Him (Gen. 1:26; 32:28).
In our Christian life we also have many struggles – we struggle with people, situations, education, things, etc but actually we struggle with God. Our Christian life is a life of struggling with God to be transformed by God into a prince of God, a corporate man who expresses God with His image and represents Him with His authority (Rom. 12:2; 5:17).
God’s purpose in His selecting us, predestinating us, and calling us is to transform us (the pitiful sinners) into royal sons so that we may reign with Him as kings (Rev. 22:5). For this, we need to go through a long process of transformation to have the natural life replaced with the divine life of Christ by the continual dispensing of the life-giving Spirit into all our soul, so that we may be made in the same image as Christ from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
God doesn’t want us to have a change in behavior or outwardly correct our living but to metabolically transform us by the addition of the divine element to our being and the removing of our natural element so that Christ would be living in us!
It’s amazing how death will rob some people of vital core values and simple compassion for another human being. Having been raised by a man of tremendous “Pedigree” and ethics, I am very proud and thankful for his determination to em-plant honor and values within the woven fabric of my being and my siblings. It has been a month since his great sleep, but I am still trying to put pieces together from the painful ordeals that took place on this day of blessing for Johnny Pratt, but a tragedy for me. To see the behavior of my sibling really enhanced the death of my dad. Watching my brother have no honor in his conduct towards me and his Great God, who blessed him with a great Father was almost as horrible as watching my team of white brothers wearing a trident and American flag on their shoulders just like me, took the same oath and served with honor until one night while deployed they looked at me and said, now nigger who will protect you now?
My brother called me three days after my fathers passing, he wouldn’t even allow me to eulogize my father, nor would he. Our dad was a great man who instilled determination and education into our lives. He talked about being black in America and what’s expected of us during family dinners. As he would retire to the family den with us following close behind to have current events and synergizing talks he would always start with the pledge of allegiance and then state without fail that “honor” can be taken to eternity. He would remind us that no matter where we go in life that our conduct against racism will help those who hate and that it would allow them to see what a patriot of black culture looks like. My dad always spoke about having faith and trusting the only “Truth” there is and that is the Good News of the gospel.
Good news invades the dark spaces. Good news invades the bad spaces and sheds light where there isn’t any at all. This is the nature of the gospel. It’s what it does. On a thousand different topics, what the gospel does is invade brokenness, mistrust, anger, unforgiveness, hate, fracturing of relationships, and it enters into that brokenness and reconciles.
In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded the little nation of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia, knowing it would be next on Saddam’s hit list, called Washington and asked for help. Regardless of your political persuasion, you would have to agree on that occasion, then President Bush was at his best. Because President Bush picked up the phone and he called England and Canada and Spain and France, Italy, Turkey and numbers of other countries around the world and built the famous Coalition.
Men and women from different backgrounds, races, classes, cultures and personalities all gathered in the Gulf with one singularly focused agenda—to draw a line in the sand. To serve notice on this madman that not only could he not take more territory, he would have to relinquish the territory he had already taken. The Coalition was to serve notice on him that his days of rule in the Gulf were over.
Now there is another mad person in history and he’s called the devil. He’s come on territory that he has not created and does not own. He has brought with him death and disease and destruction. But God has responded by building his own coalition, made up of black people and white people and red people and yellow people; made up of tall people and short people; made up of people from various classes and backgrounds, to draw a line in the sand. To serve notice on this mad one that not only can he not take over more territory, he must relinquish the territory he already has. That coalition is called the church.
Our soldiers showed up with new, high-tech weaponry. Now, when Saddam looked across and saw five hundred thousand men and women with all this high-tech weaponry, you know his momma ain’t raised no dummy. He said, “I need a Plan B.” That’s when he launched scud attacks on Israel. His strategy was to draw Israel into the war in order to split the Coalition, believing that if he could draw Israel into the war his Arab brothers would not fight against another Arab brother alongside their archenemy, Israel. So he launched scud attacks to split the Coalition. Of course that’s when the heroes of the war showed up—Patriot Missiles. They were electronically released from their silos and met the scuds in heavenly places. And because the Coalition held, the war ended in just a few days.
You see, when you are in a war you don’t care about the color or class or culture of the man fighting next to you, as long as he is shooting in the same direction you are. If you know
Jesus Christ, you are in a war. This army that we are a part of is made up of people who are different from you, different from me. We may have all come over here on different ships but we are in the same boat now.
Modeling multi-ethnic community
The problem we face is that 11:00 on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America. The problem that we face is that the people of God are not holding the standard of God high enough. That society can see that God has created one body with a lot of different looking faces. Unless we are willing to transcend, unless we are willing to rise above the efforts and intimidations of the enemy to allow history, background, culture, class and all the other human idiosyncrasies to divide the common call of Christ, then we will never see the impact of the church in reclaiming the culture.
Make no mistake about it—it won’t come because of your political affiliation. For God doesn’t ride the back of donkeys or elephants. The solutions to our problems won’t be delivered on Air Force One. It reminds me of a story of Joshua when he was in battle array, ready to go to war, inJoshua chapter 5. He came across this man who was getting ready to go into battle himself. He was a huge guy. He was captain of a large army. Joshua looked at him and said “Whose side are you on? Before I go to war I need to know whose side you are on, because if you are on their side then we are going to lose. If you are on our side then we have help to win, so whose side are you on?”
The man looked at him and said “Obviously you are thoroughly confused. I am neither on your side, nor am I on their side. I’m captain of the Lord’s Army. I did not come to take sides. I came to take over.”
That’s God’s agenda. He did not come to distinguish between Baptists and Methodist and Episcopalians and Pentecostals. He came to take over. He came to set a whole new agenda that all of his armed forces must operate under. It’s amazing how when we come to a gathering like this, we can be one in the name of Christ. But when we leave, we go back into our own uniqueness, not understanding that there is only one army here. Not understanding that God has called a coalition to operate in his unified way. Because, brothers and sisters, the test of the power in this room is not measured inside this room.
Whether you are black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Baptist or Methodist … whether you have an outgoing personality or an ingrown personality, there’s only one color that matters. That’s the color red, the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Identifying the rot of racism
Peter was a man who had to come face to face with this problem. This problem of diversity. This problem of difference. This problem of unity. Peter was a staunch Jew. He was a super Jew. He was proud to be Jewish. Committed to being Jewish and was faithfully Jewish. One day while having devotions on the top of his roof, God gave him a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all manner of food on it. Peter said, “Not so Lord. Not so. I can’t eat that unclean food, the food that the Gentiles eat.”
God then gave him a lesson of a lifetime. “Don’t call unclean what I call clean. Don’t use your past standards to govern your present actions. This is a new ballgame now. I’ve created a new entity called the church.” He was then sent down to the home of Cornelius, where he introduced Gentiles to the new reality of a King. This cross-cultural experience made such a great impact that he even went over to dine with the Gentiles on their side of town.
That dinner event is recorded for us in Galatians 2. Finally, he had the chance to eat Gentile “soul” food. So he crosses the railroad tracks and goes dining at the “Soul Shack” where the Gentiles were living. He’d always wanted to taste pig feet and hog moths and chittlin’s. He always wanted to know what fat back and pork chops and ham tasted like. There he had his opportunity, ordained by God.
And so we find him dining with the Gentiles. Finding out he could have fellowship with people who are different than he was. Finding out what all the hoopla was all about regarding their background, their history, their worldview, and their diet. What he was finding out was all the good cooking he had been missing in all of his years as a Jew. That’s what he found out.
And so in Galatians 2, we find him dining with the Gentiles, enjoying a glorious, sumptuous, marvelous, magnanimous meal. In fact, he had even brought some of his Jewish friends with him and they were all seated and dining together. But a problem occurred in verse 12. It says, “For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they came he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof fearing the party of the circumcision.”
Peter, the Super Jew, was there dining with his new brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gentiles. All was fine until some of his homies from the hood showed up. Some of the boys from the hood showed up. Some of his Jewish friends sent by James, who are castigating him for what he was doing. “How dare you, Peter, our leader!” “How dare you! Don’t you know we don’t do that in this neighborhood? Don’t you know that in this neighborhood we don’t fraternize. I know we are all one in Christ and all that, but that’s theology. Let’s get practical. In this neighborhood we don’t do that. How could you Peter?”
And Peter was afraid of the circumcision, the text says—he was afraid of what his other brothers in Christ thought. What the rest of the family of God felt. He disregarded the truth of the Word of God told to him in Acts chapter 10. And it says that he withdrew himself. Now you have to understand this is no small withdrawal. This is Peter really withdrawing.
Whenever you see the list of disciples in the New Testament, Peter’s name is always first. Because he was the leader of the disciples. So when he withdrew, it says in verse 13, that the rest of the “Jews joined him in his hypocrisy.” With the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. Peter is the leader. We all know that a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.
When he fails as a leader to lead centered on the Bible, his congregation follows. The great tragedy of our day is that our pulpits have failed to deal with the issue of diversity, so our pews don’t know what to do about the issues of diversity. Because the church has not come to grips with this issue, the people of God have failed to be inclusionary when it comes to the oneness of the body.
And he withdrew; the rest of the Jews went with him. It’s interesting that the text says, “Even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.” Not my boy Barnie. I mean anybody but Barnabas. You see, Barnabas was raised in Cyprus. Cyprus, of course, is a Gentile colony. So he was raised with Gentiles, went to school with Gentiles, played ball with Gentiles. That’s how bad racism is. It can take a good man and make him bad.
Calling sin what it is
Barnabas, the encourager, is now one of the ones to withdraw because of the pressure, the power, the potency of failed Christianity. Led by Peter, influenced by his own race. He would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for one thing. Paul wanted some pork chops too. The text in verse 11 says that Paul showed up and when “Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” He says in verse 14, “And when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of them, ‘If you being a Jew, live like the Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews.'” He says, “You’ve got inconsistent Christianity.”
Now, notice his response. How did he deal with racism, classism, culturalism, whatever the dividing issue is in the neighborhood where you live, the area where you minister? How did he deal with it? Did he have a workshop on race relations? Did he have a seminar on unity?
No. The text says, “When I saw him I opposed him to his face. I opposed him personally. I opposed him publicly. I opposed him biblically.” You see, we have failed to treat this issue as a sin. We called it a cultural orientation. We called it a historical backdrop. We have given it names of heritage in history, but we have not called it is, what Paul called it, “sin.