Race

“You are the first person who has ever said that to me.”

race

People have asked me

how I respond to ethnic questions and injustices of our day. [1]

My black brother was retelling a personal story of injustice perpetrated against him by a white man from his past. The awfulness of hurt fades slowly, if at all, leaving scars, warnings of the future. My brother is my friend. We esteem each other as Christian believers. Our differences are as obvious as our unity. Our friendship, our oneness in Christ, is our commitment.

But commitment is not always easy to come by. Racial arguments erupt all around us. I have read a multitude of writings, essays, articles, blogs, posts, tweets, and memes about ethnic issues. I have asked questions and had discussions and posited responses with my diverse brotherhood about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. I have carried on dozens of dialogues with my racially diverse students about justice, poverty, ethnicity, and economics.

Co-commitment must be based on mutual beliefs.

It pains me that it is necessary to make a list of beliefs to which we can agree; beliefs that should seem obvious to us all. Christian/non-Christian, black/white, Hispanic/Asian, rich/poor, male/female, here is a list of universal beliefs, commitments I think we need to follow:

  1. We all believe in the future.

  2. We all want to protect our children and grandchildren.

  3. We all believe in our collective humanness.

  4. We all believe in equality no matter one’s color, class, or code.

  5. We believe that abortion kills our children and our future.

Another black student stood across from me at the counter.

He poured his coffee and asked about my future. He was surprised when I responded “YOU are my future.” He stopped the stirring in his cup. “YOU are my legacy,” I continued. “YOU are the reason I teach. Your influence in your community, your church, your state, your circles of influence are what I care deeply for.”

My black brother looked shocked, then smiled and said, “You are the first person who has said that to me.”

People wonder how I am involved in the ethnic questions and injustices of our day. My response is always the same, “I teach. I teach in a seminary graduate school where biblical-theological foundations are being erected. I teach to help believers own their beliefs. I teach the tools my students will use for a lifetime of thoughtful Christian thinking-writing-living. I teach to help build the next generation.”

My response to the first line in this essay is “long term”: to help mentor the next generation of ethnically diverse pastors and PhDs. Education takes a long time, but education lasts longer than my voice in the pulpit or my protest sign on the street.

Here is my commitment:

  1. I will celebrate all my African, Hispanic, Asian, and European brothers & sisters.

  2. I will continue to pursue, promote, & publicize my ethnically diverse brothers & sisters for public positions.

  3. I will use my platform to search out my replacement, a man unified in belief, diverse in ethnicity.

  4. I will encourage Charlie, Gerson, Brian, Ced, Dawn, David, Reginald, Harold, Rondell, & so many others toward the completion of their advanced degrees.

  5. I will freely share eternal wisdom & permanent ideals for the 21st century.

Yet another black brother was retelling a personal story of justice, celebrating his service in the American Armed Forces. He concluded with these words, “I have traveled the world. I have seen how minorities are treated in other countries. Yes, I have lived through the hatred of some against me in the United States, but I would rather live here than those countries. I want to serve my Lord and The Church with the theological education I have received. And I want to contribute to the growing unity of black-white, African-Asian, rich & poor, powerful & powerless.”

People have asked me how I respond to ethnic questions and injustices of our day.

This essay is my answer.

[1] My brother Brian Green and I wrote a series of articles this summer prior to and continuing through the tensions in Ferguson entitled “Oneness.” Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

________________________

Mark’s eyes fill with tears often, lamenting the awfulness of racial injustice, angered by the insensitivities within The Church, and promising a cure for bigotry through the shed blood of Christ which has broken down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Dr. Mark Eckel writes this essay in honor of all his students past, present, and future, now at Capital Seminary & Graduate School.

 

 

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5 comments

  1. There is only one race and the ethnic diversities we face are a matter of personal commitment to walk with others of our Great God’s children in a sacrificial manner – through the finished work of our Risen Lord. Thanks much for the article.

  2. Mark, my friend, this is an excellent article.

    As a black man of faith it is encouraging to see writing like this that hits between the eyes and hopefully in the center of the heart. Truth is, we need more white men of faith with your courage and heart.

    The list of “mutual beliefs” is a great foundation. Number three (3) caught my eye and briefly saddened me as I thought about a recent interview I heard from a black Pastor that recounted a time when he was being trained (apprenticed) by his white Pastor. His Pastor allowed him to periodically preach and teach bible study, even while he pursued his Master’s degree. Unknown to him at the time his Pastor was receiving death threats because he let a “N*****, a soul-less man” (that is not fully human) preach to the all white congregation.

    Thank you again brother for this post. For me it screams “my response to ethnic questions and injustices is not to continuously write about it because I am too busy DOING something about it.” In my circles we call you and folks like you “ride or die”…a phraseology that can be understood by our Lord’s words when he says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20b – ESV).

    Bless you brother! See you soon.

  3. Education takes a long time, but education lasts longer than my voice in the pulpit or my protest sign on the street.

    Beautifully said, and I agree. Education isn’t just about learning new information. It’s about molding, shaping, and teaching a student to think. I believe you accomplish it well, Dr. Eckel.

    The best way to destroy racism and prejudice is to live against them. Every day. It means more than just “I’m not racist or prejudiced.” Speak out against it. And don’t just speak out against it–go and eat with people of other ethnic groups. Fellowship with them. Make friends of them. One of my professors, to whom both my wife and I are very close, is African American. We went out to lunch back in December and I felt so blessed to be able to eat with him and share time and love with him, even in public at a restaurant, which was not a thing you could do only decades ago.

    We are blessed to live in this time. But the fight isn’t over. We must always war against racism and prejudice in our lives. May God give us the strength to always push forward and to stand for what is right.

  4. Dr E.,

    Your care for me extends to depositing in me knowledge and wisdom for which I am responsible for stewarding, for use in reverberating within my circles of influence (Pvb 11:10) for good toward shalom. This legacy is in part what God has used to migrate me into the ministry theater of a local prison reentry program, where I have been working with IMPD and the Department of Corrections (IDOC) as part of a new model of reentry that includes faith based mentoring. In my trek into State prisons, and into the communities these men are returning too I am being exposed to more than racial grit. I am going head to head with a loss of hope on the inside and in the free world. Where I am trying to help my fellow man to see that other options really do actually exist, which is contrary to generations of perpetuated perspective rooted in poverty and despair.

    Interesting phrase “co-commitment”, and certainly a precursor to pursuing making a difference while living 20 feet from hells door or inside hell’s perimeter (state prison system] and the disparaging climate of our social fabric in urban community (or suburban for that matter).

    Thanks for building into me as I embark on the journey of a lifetime investment for systemic change by loving men to health, and to the threshold of an opportunity for redemption in this world and the next. Below the barnacles of this fallen world lies the inherent value: Imago dei, and that is why I do it.

  5. Dr Eckel,
    What a moving piece. I am part of your legacy, your student. Thanks for inspiring my life. Keep writing Doc, keep writing.

    Harold

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