Sunday, April 15, 2007

peculiar people

As we looked for video ideas and production elements for this Peculiar People series, it sadly reinforced via video websites and blogs that Christians are usually seen as jerks. And often rightly so.

Don Imus was a ticking cultural time bomb. I was embarrassed as a Caucasian that anyone would refer to another race in such a frankly stupid and demeaning way. And it doesn’t help that conservative (and considered by some, Christian) talk shows took a curiously defensive posture and threw up the “What about the rappers?” argument. Please.

I’m in a group of guys that is a combination of African-American and Caucasian pastors. What my black brothers have to hear on a regular basis from Christians breaks my heart. When white evangelical pastors and radio preachers push for a return to our “Christian roots” and to restore a “Christian Nation”, my African-American friends don’t get that excited.

Why? Hey, it wasn’t that great for them.

When we make heroes in the church out of founding fathers like Washington and Jefferson (who clearly wrote racist comments about Africans, no matter whatever brilliant thoughts he had), both of whom held slaves, it’s easy to see why that’s not a dearly beloved picture to people of color. And I would suggest that however benignly we want to picture the “gentle slave-owner”, how can separating children from their parents, wives from husbands, a money-centered slave trade built on kidnapping (clearly an outlawed form of slavery in Exodus 21:16) and forcing people to do your work without pay be benevolent? I wouldn’t want to live like that.

John Wesley, in a letter to William Wilberforce, the driver behind outlawing slave trade in England in 1807, called American slavery, “the vilest that ever saw the sun.” Wesley wrote in one of his books: “When the vessels arrive at their destined port, the Negroes are again exposed naked to the eyes of all that flock together and the examination of their purchasers. Then they are separated to the plantations of their several masters, to see each other no more. Here you may see mothers hanging over their daughters . . . and daughters clinging to their parents, till the whipper soon obliges them to part. And what can be more wretched than the condition they then enter upon? Banished from their country, from their friends and relations for ever, from every comfort of life, they are reduced to a state scarce anyway preferable to that of beasts of burden.. . . . Did the Creator intend that the noblest creatures in the visible world should live such a life as this?”

Imagine if you were Jewish and having dinner at the Black Forest Restaurant with a friend and he suddenly said, “Boy, I wish Germany could return to the Golden Age of 1938. That’s when Christian Germany was at its peak.” Would that get you excited? Krystal Nacht was not a pleasant memory. And that was only the slippery slope.

I'm not anti-American or slamming the founding fathers. But they shouldn't be revered in the Church...if even for the simple reason that we are to value healing and reconciliation as preference to one another.

Besides, any marriage of the State and the Kingdom of God is disastrous, both theologically and historically. The final government will be a theocracy, not a democracy. And Jesus won’t be checking the polls. You cannot marry a democracy and the Kingdom of God; you’ll end up with a mediocre Church. Look at the state churches in European countries where only 2-3% of the people attend. It doesn’t work. Political power is the bane of the Kingdom of God.

I think I’m fairly conservative socially, but why do Christians seem to excuse or even side with racist remarks…as in, “Yes, that was an awful thing to say. But what about hip hop artists?” Doesn’t that seem disingenuous to anyone? It seems incredibly sad that Christians are seen not just as conservative but mean-spirited and racist.

So what does this have to do with peculiar people? Just this: we are people of God’s own possession. We aren’t of this world. We’re aliens and sojourners. Yes, we have a responsibility to be involved in the mechanics of this world. But we can’t be married to it. Peter calls us a “holy nation”. That means I have one primary allegiance: the new nation God is forming. A holy nation set apart.

And it’s not of this earth.

Then Jesus answered, “I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36 (New Living Translation)

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 1 Peter 2:9.

ps. The opening music to the message is a great tune by Mutemath called, naturally, Peculiar People. And for you music geeks out there, that’s the keyboardist and vocalist from the best overlooked band with one of the coolest CD’s of 2000: Earthsuit’s Kaleidoscope Superior. It was a classic.


  1. Peculiar indeed! Yes, that we could lay down our prejudices and preconceived ideas based on outward appearances desiring to see as Jesus sees- wow, what a Church we'd be!

    We saw Mutemath last month with a group of youth. How incredible they are! Absolute firestarters, and they don't even know it yet.

  2. Dave, I don't know for sure how often you read ur comments and this is probably a strange request but I was wondering if you had an email address where I could send you an email that goes to you and not to someone whose specific job is to answer email. I have a story I would like to share with you. If so, please respond to

  3. I wish the world could look at people from the inside out instead of outside in. We should all be as innocent as a small child who simply sees another child to play with no matter to color.
    Please pray that the neo-nazis do not get to march this weekend. I fear for innocent people getting hurt.

  4. one of dave's potable quotables around the office is "people's theology is largely based on their experiences." related to this... i recently saw the movie "Jesus Camp." it's a frightening movie about this theology-experience thing. Christians and churches seem to have an uncanny ability (like any club i guess) to develop into communities where only like-minded and look-alike peoples are allowed in. free from outside/diverse influences, these "set apart" communities can develop dangerous or screwy motives, beliefs and purposes. that's why it's key for all of us to uncircle the wagons, and experience life with diverse/peculiar people, places, pets, point-of-views, pretzels and pressures. one of the reasons i can't wait for the healing center to launch is that it's going to give us endless opportunities to reflect and experience God's marvelous diversity. a much needed thing in our current culture of wall-building.

  5. I thought so much of the movie AMAZING GRACE about William Wilberforce that I read the biography of him by Eric Metaxas (also entitled AMAZING GRACE).

    Now I want to see the movie again! Anyway, I recommend them both.

    There were some positive aspects of the Imus debate but also way too many things said that were quite disturbing.

    On a lighter note, does anyone else think the yellow character shown here looks like he's related to Wimpy, friend of Popeye? "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

  6. Christians aren't really any "jerkier" than anyone else since we all used to BE anyone else but since we SHOULD know better now, we're fair targets for criticism. We have to come as we are because we're powerless to be better first and getting over ourselves is a PROCESS that involves others in process and I haven't met one yet that's the perfect reflection of The Risen LORD.

    We can forget that HE is The Standard, not other people. Perhaps we need to determine to set aside time at least every weekend to get together for worship and remedial training in what it means to be transformed into His image...

    There's a large building at the ends of Century Circle Boulevard in Tri-County. Meet you there on Saturday at 6:30?


  7. WOW Dave!

    The etymology of the word “peculiar” was very interesting. I always wondered if that word was related to the Latin pecuniarium, which means money or currency.
    After all these years I still love that listening to one of your messages is just as thought-provoking as a college lecture, but far more fun and engaging. I especially loved the “turn and tell the person next to you they are a piece of work.” I always love it when you go Shakespeare on us:

    What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in
    faculties! in form and moving, how express and
    admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension,
    how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of
    animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of
    dust? Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither,
    though by your smiling you seem to say so.

    This is a pivotal scene for Hamlet. He bounces back and forth between admiration at the nobility and beauty of man and his own disillusionment and frustration at how evil man can be. After uttering the words above he calls man "a quintessence of dust", revealing his anger at what some men do with the great wonderful opportunity they are blessed with from God. This sort of puts a whole new twist on what it means to be peculiar. Thanks for giving us so much to think about this week!

  8. Loved your post, Dave. It's always nice when a white guy "gets it". I see that you do.


  9. just a notation:

    the movie Jesus Camp was clearly formed with one initiative, to appear frightening to the viewer. as an individual who admires many involved in the documentary including lou engle (who has moved more for the heart of God through prayer than i can hope to attain in one lifetime), i would say there is a desperate need to unite in purpose for the Lord, but definitely He calls all from the land...diversity is His gig. Israel His firstborn son-he desires all seek with passion as He seeks us with a zealousness our little brains cannot comprehend.

    we have every need to raise up an army...but one with the purpose and heart of the Lord-we need to seek HIM and His heart alone, and boundaries will no longer be an issue.

    Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
    who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
    who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

    Isaiah 5:20

  10. Does Workmanstein have a take on the VT events?

  11. Can I give you guys a smile among all this bad stuff thats going on...okay, here goes...
    showed up at the Dalton Ave. post office about 10:30 Tues. night with suckers,God Loves You cards and tax forms. As my hubby is giving a mailperson a sucker and card, she is giving him Reese Cups, excedrin and a Vineyard card. I told her she was alright with me and she said "ditto". It made the trip worthwhile. :0)

  12. "Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures;it is our gift to each other".

  13. Dave.. have you heard of this book?

    I thought it was pretty interesting and thought provoking....