Woke

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For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance;  Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 
1 Corinthians 15:3

This word burst on the cultural scene in the past couple of years. My wife recently asked me what it meant and it occurred to me that she is not alone. It does not mean that you just “woke” up. Instead, it is actually a term of African American origin to indicate an awareness of social and racial

It sounds innocuous, until you dig under the covers, and find it is much more.

It hit the scene in the 1962 in an article by William Melvin Kelley in the New York Times titled “If You’re Woke You Dig It.” The word then began to be used on Twitter where #StayWoke became a hashtag in 2012. The sense of the word is that you have to have a healthy paranoia over social justice issues.

Amanda Hess then wrote in the New York Times Magazine that the word had been “culturally appropriated” (i.e., “stolen”) by whites who attempt to get “points for consciousness”. 

It has broadened out to include woke capitalism where there is a push for public corporations to include racial and social justice messages and include non-shareholder “stakeholders” in its governance. 

Companies are requiring training for anti-racist bias, Unconscious Bias, and diversity training. School systems have adopted the BLM curriculum which is less about racism than indoctrinating students with a narrative that America is bad because it permitted slavery.

Why write about being woke?  Well, it’s become a form of “religion” to the progressives and includes a corporate embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement (not the slogan but the movement). The movement, at its core, is Marxist. Just read their website. I cannot make this up.

It is an ideology which has quickly spread due, in part, to protests around the country. Racial justice has two rules according to Barton Swaim. The first is that racial equity requires huge government expansions of welfare and civil-rights law.

The second rule is that the government has a duty to “monitor business and social practices of citizens” through various agencies or commissions which are to detect any discrimination. Sounds like an Orwellian 1984 to me.

A corollary is that “more money for public schools is always in the best interest of minority children.” No matter that the public schools have poor results and have failed. That’s an inconvenient fact.

If you oppose these views, you will be subject to the cancel culture and labeled a racist.  No matter whether you are racist or not. It is an ideology for many progressives who abandoned Christianity in a post-Christian world.  

As Tom Kuiper said, “the religion of Wokeness is not harmonious with Christianity.”  It starts with the premise of “white privilege” which is deemed immoral and cannot be eradicated.  

There is no redemption from “privilege” no matter how hard one tries. A handful of politicians recently kneeled at the US Capitol to acknowledge their privilege and make it a form of punishment.   

The real aim is to get rid of white privilege, which actually means wealth. The oppressors (whites) are deemed wealthy because of their privilege.

Marxism holds that wealth must be transferred from the oppressor to the oppressed. Some call this reparations which is seen as one way to address the “racial wealth gap”. Being woke requires Socialism to accomplish its goals.

Kuiper notes that few religions punish people for disagreeing with them. You can oppose a religion, but not being Woke. You must embrace Woke or you will be labeled racist and “shamed, fired from [your] job, or derided publicly” according to Kuiper. 

Being woke means that one sees the world through the single lens of social justice and equality (the latter being equality of outcome, not opportunity).

At its essence, it defies the rule of law – in effect, the ends justifies the means. Our rule of law has a presumption of innocence. Being woke means that there is a presumption of guilt, particularly if you are white.

This latter observation – guilty until proven innocent – requires immediate action for any perceived racial incident between white and black, particularly if it involves the police. But it is selective: BLM does not advocate anything about black on black violence or murders which are rampant in major cities like Chicago.

That’s not mentioned in their ideology, as if it doesn’t happen or it doesn’t matter. BLM is also silent on abortions which disproportionately affect minorities which was the aim of Margaret Sanger when she founded Planned Parenthood.

BLM also is opposed to the concept of the nuclear family – father, mother and children – a cornerstone of Western Civilization and our culture today.

Stepping back, our Christian view is that we are all sinners – regardless of our color, and in fact, in spite of it. Unlike being woke, we have redemption through Jesus who atoned for our sins on the cross. There is no atonement in the Woke world. It has gained popularity by many who haven’t thought through its implications.

Our challenge is that this popular ideology is encroaching on our western culture in ways not imagined, and we need to be very aware of what it really means.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Your next generation mentee is likely to favor being woke based on many studies.  It is a topic that needs discussion, and you may be the only person able to do that in his or her life.

FURTHER READING:

When the Market Meets Morality – WSJ

How are Public Schools Really Doing – Washington Post

The Left’s Worshipping of Wokeness will Dwarf Other Faiths – Kuiper

Three Key Concepts that Woke “Anti-Racists” Believe – Daily Signal

The New Religion of the Woke Left is a Faith Without Atonement  – Federalist

BLM Curriculum in Schools is Turning Kids into Little Marxists – Federalist

MUSIC:  Come Ye Sinners – Vertical Church

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The Golden Rule

Treat others just as you would want them to treat you. (CEV) Luke 6:31

MentorLink is unique in many ways. We don’t charge for any of our training and we give our materials away for free. We have twenty years of relationships around the world. During the Covid pandemic, we have learned that many of our leaders in other countries are really struggling.  

In Africa and in India, for example, when churches can’t meet, pastors don’t get paid. They live in a cash culture, so the convenience of being able to send a check or use a credit card to make donations is unavailable.  

At the beginning of the Covid crises, I started asking my friends around the world how they were doing. None of them had asked for money, partly because MentorLink is not a foundation and doesn’t have money to help them. What I found, consistently, is that our leaders and pastors don’t have enough money to eat. 

It started with my friend Sam SunderSingh in Chennai, India. I’ve known him for over 5 years when we went through training at the MentorLink Institute on principles servant leadership. He is part of a group that still gets together monthly to stay in touch, pray for each other, and find out what the Lord is doing in their lives.

I sent Sam a small amount of money ($200). He immediately responded that he wanted permission to give it away to his group of twelve pastors who didn’t have enough money for food.  1,000 Rupees (about $13) would feed their families for two weeks. He then gave the rest away to students from his school who also didn’t have enough to eat. 

Sam’s generosity to others in need was inspiring.  He sent an email giving me the names of all those he had helped and was so grateful for the assistance. I sent the email to a few close friends. What happened next was a little unexpected. Suddenly, I started getting small checks from friends with the intent that I distribute it to those in need. 

So far, I have raised close to $2,500. Doesn’t seem like a lot in the grander scheme of things, but the impact is huge to our friends in need. Checks just show up unannounced.  It’s a real blessing. 

One man called me up and said “Fred told me to call you. Can we meet?”  I had no idea what he wanted, so we met and he handed me a blank check for $500 and said: “I wanted to help someone during the Covid crises but didn’t know who or where to find them, and Fred said to contact you and you would know.”

Right now, there are needs by my pastor friends in the English-speaking region of Cameroon. Besides the impact of the virus, there is a civil war has been going on for several years between the French dominated government and the Anglophone region. It is a clash of cultures that is generally unknown to the outside world because the government controls the media. 

Benvictor Ojong, our MLI leader in Limbe, Cameroon, wrote: “Women and children and young girls and boys are really suffering. Survival …is a serious issue for families, especially those hiding in the bushes and those internally displaced and living in slums without proper shelter, food or security.”  I heard the same from Pastor Balemba Solomon who I met 6 years ago while doing a leadership training in Tika, Cameroon. 

I wrote recently about the life of Freddie Johnson who spent his later life trying to help those who were less fortunate and without adequate resources.  In a way, helping one another during a time of crises is one of those moments where I think we all need to be Freddie Johnson’s to those around us. 

This is basic stuff. It is how we One Another One Another. We are to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 5:13). 

The people who have contributed generously for my small efforts all say the same thing: they are glad that the money goes to where it is needed the most and they don’t worry about it being wasted.

Our MentorLink Board discussed what, if anything, we should do as an entity. The Board decided that we really weren’t equipped to distribute funds as an entity (it’s complicated by our need for receipts and accounting which sometimes gets in the way).  

So, I have been put in charge of “gathering funds to send to most-needed-places related to the pandemic effects overseas” in the words of Paula Rinehart. She also noted that it really helps that the money goes direct “without losing a chunk of the money in [administrative charges]” or worry about it going to the wrong people.

If you want to be a Freddie Johnson to someone less fortunate, please let me know at otterpater@gmail.com.  None of these gifts are tax deductible.  Let me know if you want to be identified to the recipient or wish to donate anonymously. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be an example to the next generation and show them how to make meaningful contributions to those less fortunate who are often out of sight.

WORSHIP:  The Blessing – Kari Jobe 

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Context

 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

 [I am grateful for this from Dean Engebretson, a retired pastor who returned to Minnesota to be near his family. His article came after a lengthy discussion we had by phone over the problem with viewing history through the lens of today, rather than through actual historical context.]

I am red- green color blind, the more technical diagnosis being ‘strong Protan’. However, two years ago I was given a pair of Enchroma sunglasses with lenses that permit more spectrums of bright color, reducing my color blindness.  I put the glasses on while waiting at an intersection traffic light.   The light turned green and for the very first time I saw an actual ‘green’ light! It was amazing!  

Here is something else that is amazing – viewing history through the lens of modernity.  By this I mean critiquing the lives of historical figures by using a 21st century lens, or” framework”, if you will.  Whether it be:

  • a foolish experience of a teenager;
  • a thoughtless fraternity Halloween costume;   
  • an accepted practice in another century…people are using today’s lenses to evaluate historical figures.

I believe there are significant flaws to this (very popular) practice.  Here are a few:

Failure to understand context. “Sitz im leben” is a German term used to describe the social context or ‘life setting’ in which a narrative emerged.  The point being made is that a particular item can only be understood when it is related to the cultural and social life when it occurred.  Interpreters of ancient literature add: “The interpreter, should therefore endeavor to take himself from the present, and to transport himself into the historical position of his author…”.   Thus, an accurate understanding of a previous generation’s actions takes into account the context in which said activity took place.   

Failure to appreciate the explosion of knowledge.  A single edition of the New York Times contains more information that a 17th century British citizen encountered in his LIFETIME!  The explosion of knowledge has revealed new realities.   If today’s doctors practiced medical procedures of former generations and centuries, they would likely be charged with malpractice! Mercury was once considered to a be a useful ointment and believed to increase lifespan and vitality.  Today, research shows the danger of mercury poisoning, and cause people to replace their amalgam (mercury) teeth fillings.  To judge another’s century’s behaviors by today’s knowledge base is simply unfair.

 Changing values.  Research shows that the baby boomer generation has different values than the Millennials generation.  If two generations have different values, imagine the differences of 10+ generations!  Consider this: it is entirely possible that a future generation will look back at this time in history and severely judge our society’s current fascination with TOLERANCE!  

Failure to accept humanity’s flaws.  Could any human being remain standing under the intensity of today’s scrutiny?  Is there anyone who is not guilty of some glitch / mistake / or worse?  One of my sons went through a childhood phase in which he wore a pirate ring “earring” wherever he went!  Many of us have had ‘life phases’ of which we are not proud.  There has only been One whose life was squeaky clean, without reproach, blemish, or stain.  If you look deeply enough into every person’s life, you will find something that disappoints, perhaps even disqualifies…..

These factors in no way gives historical figures a “free pass” regarding their behavior.   I simply want to expose the fallacies of using a 21st century lens to critique and judge historical figures.  So, permit me to suggest two alternative questions to ask that may guide our debate as to whether this person’s statue should remain in the public square. 

First, ask “How much light did this person have?”  How much did he/she know (by the base of knowledge at their time including general revelation as described in Romans 1:19,20; 2:11-15)?  The increase of knowledge increases accountability.  Jesus said, “to whom much is given, much is required.”  Higher expectations follow higher knowledge and understanding.  Graduate record exams (GRE) are taken by college graduates matriculating to graduate school, not by rising high school freshmen.  

Second, “How did this person live within their generation?”  Did he/she rise above the “sitz im leben” to show a better way?  For example, knowing our country’s history of slavery, a wealthy white southerner owned slaves, (as the culture permitted), we press in to learn HOW the slaveowner treated his slaves.  George Washington owned 123 slaves at his Mt. Vernon farm. (Mt. Vernon had other slaves not under Washington’s control.)  Over his lifetime, Washington became increasingly uneasy with slavery and in his Will, he stated that the slaves he owned should be emancipated upon the death of his wife, Martha.  He further stipulated that elderly enslaved people or those who were too sick to work were to be supported by his estate in perpetuity.  By today’s standards, he is judged harshly, but in his day, his actions were unusual and compassionate. 

To critique an historical time or figure through a 21st century lens is simplistic and not helpful to the important discussions our nation needs to have. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   A mentor should help his mentee use the context of history, not today’s lens in making judgments.

WORSHIP:  I See the Lord – Vertical Church

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Freddie Johnson

Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes. Isaiah 38:3

Most of you have never heard of Freddie Johnson.  That’s unfortunate, but Freddie didn’t live his life to be in the limelight.  He recently passed away and it made me pause and reflect on a person whose life was well lived.  He was a hero of the faith to many.

When my wife and I moved to Raleigh in 1968, Freddie and his wife, Helen, were one of many in our social circle. Freddie was a successful homebuilder. He loved the outdoors and anything on water.  Tennis was his sport.  I played tennis with Freddie many times (badly). He was very competitive.

As his obituary noted, Freddy’s early motto might have been “work hard, play hard.”  In his early 40’s, he and Helen had a deepening of their Christian faith.  Freddie pivoted from successful businessman to full time ministry. It was as if he had decided “his ladder had been against the wrong building.”

What ensued was a pursuit for an audience of one. He took a mission trip to Haiti which led to spending six months there. He worked with a ministry called Hearts and Hands for Haiti, which has an orphanage and school in remote area of Haiti.  It is not an easy place to get to.

Freddie led dozens of annual trips with others to acquaint them to Hearts and Hands. He took visitors from Black and white churches alike. They were exposed to the joy of children despite their existence in grinding poverty.

When Freddie quit his business, and went to Haiti, I thought he had gone off the deep end. I was young in my own faith walk and couldn’t understand how anyone could abandon a successful career overnight. In retrospect, Freddie had it right – following his heart and his faith for a life devoted to helping others who were less fortunate.

After his Haitian experience, Freddie and Helen went to Atlanta to learn more about inner-city ministry and what it means to be neighbors to the poor.

They moved near Halifax Court, a dated public housing project that Freddie saw as a place that might be lacking in resources. He realized that many minority children in the community needed some help – either tutoring, mentoring or other resources.

That led to the creation of Building Together Ministries  in 1989 which served the Halifax community for 25 years. They bought a nearby empty school building and used it as the place where tutoring and mentoring could take place.

It was a ministry that was founded on the principle of walking beside the under-resourced as they sought a better life for themselves and their children. It crossed racial lines, providing resources to those who didn’t have them readily available.

He then started Hope Elementary School, a charter school, which was specifically designed to educate children from lower income families. They added summer camp experiences and senior care to the mix, too.

But the school only went through high school, and many of their students were not college bound and didn’t have ready access to the job market. There was a need to help these students and others access the work market and many of them were not prepared to make that transition.

As a result of the need,  JFL, or Jobs for Life,  was formed and initially led by Skip Long, one of the people who had worked with Freddie at Building Together. It filled in the gap of helping students go from school to work.

Freddie was a close friend of Dr. John Perkins, one of the first to develop ministry around racial reconciliation. Freddie held many conferences which is where I first met John Perkins in the mid-1990’s.  It was eye-opening.

Freddie’s efforts included developing leadership from the black community to help run Building Together. It was an impressive tapestry of black and white leaders working together.

In today’s world where we hear the mantra of white supremacy and systemic racism, Freddie’s life is an inconvenient story.  He was a hero of mine in many ways, but mostly because he lived a life less traveled.  He also helped shape my views on racial reconciliation, which is the real way to end racism, not defunding the police.

Freddie was mentored by John Perkins and others, and in turn, he was a mentor to others. I admire him for that. Freddie died recently but his imprint will live on through the lives of others that he touched and shaped.

I asked my daughter if Freddie was a patient of her husband.  Because of HIPPA, she couldn’t answer that (HIPPA is a goofy law that requires patient confidentiality). But she did say that the last time she saw Freddie was when he brought a blind patient to their medical clinic.

That is a picture of Freddie – helping the less fortunate in sometimes small ways. That’s his legacy.

We often don’t have role models to follow or even talk about.  Freddie is one exception. He lived a life well lived.  He was a role model to a generation that is searching  and don’t know about people like Freddie Johnson.

Freddie’s life  needs to be told to the next generation who have been saturated with the idea that our country was founded on slavery and the stain can never be eliminated. That narrative is historically inaccurate. We just need more Freddie Johnson’s in this world.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   You can be the link for your mentee to see that there are ways to solve racial divisions and telling the story of Freddie Johnson is one way to do it.

FURTHER READING:   Deep Love: The Legacy of John Perkins  – Nations

Jobs for Life     Website

Freddie Johnson’s Obituary

WORSHIP:  God You’re So Good – Passion

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