Photo taken by yours truly in a crush of people on the east Capitol steps, July 2007
Over the past week, I sat down at my computer to write about black America, by which I mean Americans of African descent and their culture. I had hesitated to do so for a long time, for I was certain that no matter what I wrote, it would cause offense. However, I have come to feel that this fear is actually detrimental to the cause of racial reconciliation, and that only in sharing our stories can we ever hope to understand one another. I therefore sat down to write, and what came out of me was not a few brief thoughts, but a continuous stream of contemplation. I present this very long article to the public in the hope that it might be somewhat helpful. I particularly hope it can benefit the Church.
Perhaps it seems silly to speak of myself experiencing black America, as I am white and have not spent a substantial portion of my life in the company of a large number of African Americans. However, the fact is that practically everyone has experienced something of black America. What they’ve experienced might represent a tiny fragment of the whole, but it helps to define how they view black Americans and think about issues of race and/or ethnicity. Looking back on my life now, I realize how those experiences have helped to shape my ideas. Not only that, but they have taught me some things about the Church. Continue reading
Photo by Laurin Guadiana
A couple days ago, I talked about the biblical basis for defining a person as both body and soul, and how our ultimate hope is not to become a disembodied spirit, but rather to spend eternity in a glorified body. We are not only our bodies, but our bodies are certainly an integral part of who we are. Having laid down that scriptural foundation, I would like to now discuss how human relationships can break apart when we fail to properly apply these principles.
If the ancient Greeks tended to view people as souls trapped in a shell, the modern world has a tendency to view everything as material. If you are a true materialist (in the philosophical sense), you do not believe that souls exist. Therefore, a human being really is nothing more than their body, and all of their thoughts and feelings are the result of electrical signals that they cannot truly control. This has led some atheists, such as Sam Harris, to write treatises declaring that free will does not exist.
This is not the Christian view. We believe that the human will is under the influence of the sinful nature, and that without the power of the Spirit, humans are unable to perform true acts of righteousness or choose to follow God. However, we certainly do believe that all humans have a soul…even if that soul is dead in sin. No human being is only a body. We affirm the real nature of the physical world while also acknowledging the existence of the supernatural.
Despite this belief, many Christians join right in with non-Christians in acting as if people do not have souls. What do I mean by this? Just look at how we tend to treat people whom we look down on for any number of reasons: we often deemphasize their mental and spiritual nature and view them only in terms of their body. Continue reading
The “Asiatic Barred Zone” instituted by a 1917 act of Congress
The current debate over immigration that is taking place in the United States is certainly nothing new. Much as Americans like to pride themselves on being a “nation of immigrants”, this has never been a particularly easy place to come as a foreigner and start a new life. With each new ethnic and religious group that has landed on these shores, there has been a certain amount of suspicion. I am not saying this to demonize anyone who wants to place any kind of restriction on immigration, but as a way of framing the issue I intend to address.
Way back in 1790, restrictions were put in place that limited just who could become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America (as opposed to those who became citizens by virtue of being born within our borders). The specific groups that caused concern changed over the years. By the beginning of the 20th century, it was mainly Asians who worried Americans. Congress passed a law that restricted many types of immigrants, including “idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane persons…” One wonders what kind of test they employed to measure what constituted an “idiot”, as a good number of persons living in any country on earth at any point in history have surely deserved this label. Yet, the law was more specific in excluding,
…persons who are natives of islands not possessed by the United States adjacent to the Continent of Asia, situate south of the twentieth parallel latitude north, west of the one hundred and sixtieth meridian of longitude east from Greenwich, and north of the tenth parallel of latitude south, or who are natives of any country, province, or dependency situate on the Continent of Asia west of the one hundred and tenth meridian of longitude east from Greenwich and east of the fiftieth meridian of longitude east from Greenwich and south of the fiftieth parallel of latitude north, except that portion of said territory situate between the fiftieth and the sixty-fourth meridians of longitude east from Greenwich and the twenty-fourth and thirty-eighth parallels of latitude north…
Immigration Act of 1917
If you found that confusing – and you undoubtedly did – then let me put it in plain terms for you. This law barred immigrants from any part of Asia except for the Russian Empire, Japan, Korea, and eastern China. This was understandably a problem for many people of Asian descent who were planning on immigrating to the U.S. Continue reading
From the beginning, the media wanted to make the Zimmerman case about black vs. white. That is why the story gained national attention in the first place. I’m not going to make a judgment about whether race played a factor in what happened that night, and I realize how complex and personal individuals’ feelings about race can be. Be that as it may, I have always been struck by the fact that Zimmerman did not “look” particularly “white”. His surname is German, but beyond that I didn’t actually know anything about his heritage until I saw the picture of his parents in the courtroom: a white father and an apparently Asian mother. Does the narrative change at all because George Zimmerman is actually biracial? Should it? It’s a question that I’ve never heard anyone in the media bother to ask, though I admittedly have not listened to all of the endless hours of coverage. (I have better things to do with my time.) What I do know is that it says as much as anything about our racial attitudes that we define him only by his white father and not his Asian mother. Were this portrayed in the media as an incident involving two minorities instead of black vs. white, for example, I am willing to bet that the debate would have been much different.