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Bridging the Racial Divide in the United States

Air Date 08/23/2017

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Senators Tim Scott and James Lankford discuss the race conflicts that have been occurring recently in the United States, and the need for racial reconciliation and an end to violence. 

Episode Transcript

Opening: 

Jim Daly: Martin Luther King, Jr., said “We must learn to live together as brothers or we’ll perish together as fools.” Welcome to Focus on the Family. I’m Jim Daly. John Fuller is out today, but I want to hit this issue of racial division and civil unrest in America.

It is true that we must learn to live together in peace. And I wanna address the topic right here on the broadcast. Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God, in Christ, also has forgiven you.

Or maybe Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called Sons of God.” Uh... we as the body of Christ have got to get this right. We’ve got to do all we can do to bring down this tension and open up dialog between people. Uh... the ultimate answer to the hostilities we’re seeing in the news or in communities is Jesus Christ. And only He can bring peace and unity among us all. Uh... we have to look to Him.

I’ve asked two U.S. Senators, good friends of this ministry, Senators James Lankford and Tim Scott, to join us by phone today so that we could start this conversation about racial divide.

Senator Lankford is in Israel, he’s gonna join us in just a few minutes. He represents the state of Oklahoma. He’s been a senator for the past two years and before that served in the House of Representatives. He’s also served as a youth pastor for two decades, so I’m looking forward to talking with him.

And also Senator Tim Scott, my good friend, who is U. S. Senator from South Carolina. Uh... Senator Scott, thanks for joining us. As I said, Senator Lankford will join us in just a moment.

Hey , let me... let me s et some of the background up for folks who maybe don’t know your career and what you’ve accomplished. You started in the House of Representatives and became a Senator. You’re the 7th African American Senator that we’ve had in this country. How does that, just on the surface, how does that make you feel that you’re the 7th African American to make it into the Senate?

Body:

Senator Tim Scott: Well, it certainly is a blessing from God, number one. Number two, it is a testament to the transformation that has happened here in South Carolina. Without any question I am sitting in the United States Senate because the good people of South Carolina saw fit to send me to be their representative in the United States Senate. And with such a provocative history on race, South Carolina is a picture perfect scene of what is possible in the human heart given time, attention, and the love of God.

Jim: Let me start by just asking you what’s your perception of what went down in Charlottesville. How did you process that, what were you thinking? And, then even with the President’s remarks, what was happening for you?

Senator Scott: Well, I think first, having people that you disagree with philosophically, having their space to protest, according to the Constitution of this country and the First Amendment, is their right and I think that should be respected. Having that protest turn violent was just heartbreaking. And the reality of it is, while I don’t agree with white nationalists, and I don’t agree with neo-nazi’s, and white supremacists, the fact of the matter is that they still have the right to march. The challenge is that at end of the day there, the young lady, Miss (Heather) Heyer, was mowed down by a vehicle. Uh... then it changed the entire scene completely. And we should expect when there are folks that come out to protest the removal of a civil war statue that there will be counter protesters who come out to protest those who are protesting.

So the scene was certainly one that was unfortunately ripe for a real strong tension. And that tension boiled over in many ways, but certainly, ultimately, in death, which there’s just no way to create uh.. equivalence when one event leads to death.

Jim: Right. And that’s maybe where the missteps occurred because where people underestimated any kind of equivalency to other groups because of death of that young woman and the severity of it. But there are many people in the country that they’re trying to find out why and on the one hand you had five police officers killed in Dallas. That was horrible. Um... where can we have an honest discussion, especially those of us within the church, the Christian community, you and I being able to sit down and say, “How do we get from here to better place?” Um... what’re you thinking in that regard, what can we do to begin to mend some of these fences that seem unmendable?

Senator Scott: Number one, I think we should be hopeful in the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ is perhaps the only way for us to truly fuse together that which will become inseparable. That’s all of us being bathed in the love of God through His son, Jesus Christ. And the reason why I say that is because recently I had a chance to speak at my church. They did an all-staff event where myself and a person who was a democrat, me being a republican, came and spoke about the issues of our community and our culture. And one of the questions that was asked was “How do we overcome these tumultuous times?” And my answer is you find that in the word of God. In Matthew 5:44, the great example of loving your enemies, loving those who persecute you. The fact is that if we found ourselves sitting on common ground, with a common value system, the Judeo-Christian foundation of this country, asking and answering questions based on how would Jesus respond to these situations and how has He responded to these situations, we’d find ourselves a: having a dialog and not a monologue; b: finding very often, so many things that we are actually in agreement on; and third finding the solutions that have been so elusive over the last several months.

Jim: That’s so true. Uh... we do have Senator Lankford on the line from Israel. Senator Lankford, thanks for calling in. Man, I don’t know what time of day it is where you’re at but thank you for the effort.

Senator James Lankford: You bet. Glad to be able to connect in.

Jim: Uh... We’ve been talking with Senator Scott about what’s been happening, what happened in Charlottesville, the response of the president, the response of the nation. How we come together and actually begin to heal, once again, over these things. I was really curious, Senator Lankford - you’re from Oklahoma. And by the way, I pray for both of you guys. I love you guys. I just think you guys are the kind of leaders that we need more of, both in the senate, the house, and in all of... branches of government. So thank you for who you are and what you do each day for the American people.

With that said, back a hundred years ago in Oklahoma, your great state, uh... there were incredible race riots that occurred. You’re the historian. You know what happened. Tell us that story and what we should learn from what happened a hundred years ago.

Senator Lankford: Yeah. One of... the worst race riot in American history actually happened in Oklahoma. It’s a sad part of our state’s history. But it was in 1921 uh... over May the 31st and June the 1st. Uh... it is unknown exactly how many people were killed in the riots. Uh... but it started with a terrible ride, and a terrible accusation that happened in Tulsa and it spread out uh... to an all black district up [in] northern Tulsa call The Greenwood District, which at that time was recognized as... as this entrepreneurial hub, and was in fact affectionately called “Black Wall Street” because there were so many businesses and it was such a uh... an active hub of business for that area and uh... it was burned to the ground and destroyed. Uh... and it was... many were killed, many more left, uh... many were hurt. Uh... there were a lot of African American citizens were just rounded up and jailed uh... at that time period. And it was a very, very difficult time in Oklahoma history.

Uh... obviously there’s a lot to be learned from it and as Oklahoman’s we’re asking the question in 2021 uh... the entire country’s gonna pause for a moment over that weekend into June the 1st and is gonna ask the question, “What have we learned about race in America in the last 100 years.”

And we in Oklahoma are still working to be able to answer that question well. Uh... but that’s something the nation continues to be able to answer.

Jim: Well, that’s so well said and we need to have that appetite, that zeal. Especially the Christian church to want to do better. You know, I want to I want to have you speak very honestly, Tim, because I know you, I know who you are, I know your belief in Christ and I trust you in such deep ways. The um... simple fact that you are a black man, you’re a Senator. You encounter things, even as a Senator of this great country, that seems questionable, whether it’s a policeman pulling you over, what have you. Help us better understand what it’s like to be an African American in this country. I mean you’re speaking to me. I’m a white brother in the Lord with ya, but help me better understand it. And speak boldly to me. Don’t hold back.

Senator Scott: Yeah.

Jim: What happens in your circumstances?

Senator Scott: Uh... I can tell you one of the clearest memories I have was on June 5, 1987 when I was pulled over by a law enforcement officer with his hand on his gun because one my headlights was too dim, it was coming in and out. And I was just a kid driving a old car with no a/c through a small town and I was scared to death. It was...it...it... was a humiliating experience. Then I’ve recounted on the floor of the Senate being stopped seven times by law enforcement officers in one year as an elected official. Uh... none of those seven times given a... given a ticket, but just having the sense of being disrespected and a sense of being demoralized for simply being black. And so the experiences that I have are, from my perspective, real, and real important. I think at the same time, so often, I’ve also had the experience when I had law enforcement with me when difficult times were there when I was denied access to an event. It was my law enforcement buddies that was... were standing outside of that event with me and shaking their heads. And those were white officers, by the way.

And so I think [what] we’re missing in this country, to be frank, is a total picture, a clear view of reality in the 21st century. Not reality in the 18th, 19th, or 20th centuries, but the one that is today. And so often we’ve wrestled with the past because we actually never had to deal with it.

And if we’re gonna make progress that’s what happens. We learn to deal with the past without sanitizing it. And it’s one of the things that Senator James Lankford and I have engaged on trying to accomplish is helping us sit at the same table with people who are not like us, who don’t look like us, in our own homes...

Jim: Hmmm...

Senator Scott: ...so that we have a chance to build rapport and credibility on these very important topics. And as the body of Christ we should be leaning in to the challenges in our community and not silent.

And I will say Jim (Daly), that when you look back into the 60’s, we saw a very different response from the church and from America, as a whole.

Jim: Right.

Senator Scott: During those provocative times the church was fairly silent. I think it was 25 years later or so when the church, at least the Baptist church, apologized for their silence during the 60’s. But this time around we have seen the church, the military leaders, republicans and democrats, all come out and reject hatred, bigotry, violence, racism. So, the progress in our country is such that we should all celebrate how far we come in spite of the fact that we still have to, you know, march forward.

Jim: And that’s so well said. And that’s the desire of this program is to talk with you in this way, to help our listeners better understand what your world’s like and to have an ear open. I love the challenge of have some folks over to dinner that aren’t part of your group, you know. People that look different from you, whether they’re Latino, or Black, or Asian, or if they’re White.

Senator Scott: Yep.

Jim: Um... I like that idea and I’m proud of you guys showing that kind of leadership. Let me ask you this, when you look at news, and we watch a lot of it here at Focus on the Family, believe me. We are watching you, we are praying for you and your colleagues and the president, and we did the same for President Obama, because you’re leading our nation. And we as Christians are commanded to pray for you and it’s a real honor to do so. But when we look at um... hatred, it’s not a political issue although some politicize it and try to capitalize from it. But I really want to ask you, after living it and having people you know, express that kind of hatred toward you just because of the color of your skin, where do you think it comes from? What is happening in the human heart that makes it so difficult for us to love one another with our differences? I mean it’s really...it’s the color of our skin. I mean it...it... it seems ridiculous that we would have that kind of animosity toward one another, especially as, you know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “It’s our character that counts.” I think God would say, “Amen to that!”

Senator Scott: I absolutely agree that God would say amen to that (Chuckling). I do think what has happened is that sometimes we forget the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that this is a Christian radio show, I know that we are both Christians, I know that the listeners go to church. I think sometimes we forget the history that is His story between the beginning of Genesis and the end of Revelations. And some of the things that He says there are so powerful. The story of the Samaritan woman, during a time when Jews and Samaritans did not associate. Having Jesus take the ladle and drink out of her ladle is a classic example of what we should do as the body of Christ and what we should expect others in our community to follow if we’re willing to lead.

Uh... I think it’s scriptures like Acts 17:26 that says, “From one man He made all nations.”

Jim: Right.

Senator Scott: We’re all brothers and sisters. Uh... Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is their male or female as relates to our citizenship or our adoption papers into the body of Christ. If we were to see each other as a part of the American family we would treat each other a little differently.

Now you and I both know Thanksgiving and Christmas can be very difficult because those people that we’re related to come over and...

Jim: (Laughing)

Senator Scott: ...and they don’t go home early enough.

Jim: We do programs on it here at Focus on the Family. (Laughter)

Senator Scott: And so I’m not pretending that family is without challenges and tension. I’m just suggesting that if you can’t get rid of ‘em you get used to them. And you learn to live together. And often times, you learn to appreciate the differences and love the complimentary skill sets and the things that we all bring to the same table when we’re in the body of Christ, or the American family.

Jim: Senator Lankford, let me ask you, we were asking Senator Scott his opinion of what took place, let me get that from you, as well. Why now, what’s happening with bigotry, what’s feeding this in the human soul.

Senator Lankford: Well, it is interesting that a lot of people in the country that think that we’re now past racism in America. That this is something that’s been accomplished. And I think what happened in Charlottesville was another reminder this is not done for us. We’ve come a long way, as Americans. We’re a long way past 3/5 of a man. We’re a long way past separate but equal. And we’ve come a long way on a lot of issues and we continue to make progress, and quite frankly we’ve made a lot more progress than many other countries in the world have made on race. Many other countries in the world continue to struggle with race and with tribe and with so many issues.

This is something in the human soul that we have to be able to work through and dialog. I’m right now...it’s the middle of the night in Israel right now, calling you, and I can assure you that’s an issue that’s here in Israel, as well, that’s alive and well, as we continue to deal with the whole struggle that happened in this region.

The issues that we face, though, can be overcome, and it’s one of the things that Senator Scott and I have worked a lot together as friends on. Something we’ve called the Sunday Solution, or Solution Sundays. And I believe the church should be able to lead in this area. If anyone can comprehend redemption, if anyone can comprehend restoration, if anyone can comprehend what it’s like to have a new life and to be made new, it’s those followers of Jesus. And so whether this is a generational issue about race that families face, or as an individual that just struggle with it, I do believe that Christ is an answer for the soul of man to be able to deal with real restoration. And pastors and churches should not be afraid to speak out on this issue.

Jim: Senator Scott, decribe how does a church, there’s pastors listening right now, and certainly you know a couple million church goers. How do we do it in our neighborhood? How do we embrace Solution Sunday for our own churches, our own communities?

Senator Scott: I think the simple way to do it is to simply, hopefully you’re already in fellowship or a relationship with folks who are not like you. That’s the first step. If you’re not already in relationships with someone who’s not like yourself you’re not likely to invite them over to your house. But if you have a relationship that hasn’t gone very deep, you’re at least friends or friendly, invite someone to your house to break bread and have a meal. And first, start with building rapport and credibility before you try to get to tough questions and tough solutions.

Jim: Hmmm...

Senator Scott: You have to first establish rapport and credibility. And if you’ll do that with people who are not like yourself you’ll a. learn a lot, b. set captives free, so to speak. The vision is in the heart of man and it takes the Holy Spirit and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ...

Jim: Yes.

Senator Scott: ...to allow for those root systems to be yanked out completely. And just... and that may take a lifetime in some areas, but that’s okay.

Jim: Yes, and it’s so well said. And I think we as the Christians, we need to hold each other accountable to this, as well. Kind of like we do with marriage, to say “Wait a minute. You’re goin’ down the wrong path.” I think this issue has become such an important issue, we’ve gotta come back and, as Jesus told Pontius Pilate, be the person that is delivering Truth. It may be hard for the church to hear that, or your friends who are Christians to hear that. But challenge them to think differently about what’s going on in our country.

Can I ask you this - that’s a high note with Solution Sunday - but the demonization of one another...I’ve seen it just barely. I mean I’ve been to Washington DC. And the problem that I feel is that everybody, I don’t care if it’s CNN, FoxNews, everybody tends to demonize the other person to where you can’t even speak. Poor mom and dad at home watching the programs hates the guest that’s on because they have a difference of opinion. Now, I’ve been on the set, in those situations, where the host may be very conservative, and at the break turns to the person who’s the strong, liberal democrat and says, “Hey, do you want go to dinner tonight?” They have friendships but they don’t show them in the heat of the ideological battle. I’m sure you guys have seen that. How do we not fall into that trap of being taken in for sweeps weeks by just a lot of hot rhetoric that boils our blood but doesn’t do what Jesus would want us to do?

Senator Lankford: Well, I would just say that there... there are a lot of parents that I have talked to, and I was in youth ministry for 22 years before I was in congress, so I’m a little it of an anomaly in that sense. There were a lot of parents that I talked to that talked about the effect of media on their kids. And I would remind parents what they all they in their heart to be true: The most effective mentor to every child is that parent. And so no matter what is on the media, the parent is still the greatest influence. Now for those of us that are on the media all the time we can’t get drawn into the siren song of trying to be the most aggressive, the most caustic person to try to get the best ratings. That seems to be the way of politics right now in the way of television is that if you can be more caustic, and be more angry, then you get more ratings and you get more bookings to be on television. We, as leaders, have got to set the tone. And it’s not about the being angry, it’s about trying to set the right example on it. Uh... I... as I recall Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t say overcome hate with bitterness and anger...

Jim: Right... (soft chuckling)

Senator Lankford: ...he said overcome hate with love. And right now we’re trying to, as a culture, to say if someone’s hateful then I’m gonna be even more hateful to them or be more bitter and angry to them and try to one-up them. That actually dials the volume up rather than dials it down.

Jim: You know, this is marriage and parenting, that’s our bread and butter. Let me ask you what the two of you would like me to tell my two teenage boys. And, of course, you’re speaking to parents across this country when you help me better understand what I should say about Charlottesville. If you were sitting in our living room how would you want me as their father, to express what’s happened and where we need to go? Senator Scott?

Senator Scott: If I were sitting in your living room with your kids I would say that there are two things that are absolutely essential for living out our faith in the public forum, frankly, and privately with our friends. We should always stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It’s in Proverbs 31, first ten verses that remind us of that fact. When we do that we will attract others who are both vulnerable and who are strong to follow suit. I think it’s so important for us to remember to love people and I Corinthians 13 is such a key scripture when it comes to marriages, but it’s actually incredibly important for the way we live our lives.

Jim: Hmmm.

Senator Scott: If we were to live our lives with faith, hope and love, we would find people attracted to us and love is not an emotion; it’s a commandment. So that would be the first piece of advice. The second piece of advice I would say, be wise as a serpent and yet, innocent as a dove. Because being wise as a serpent is to be careful not to fall into the traps that we often times fall into, looking for ways to delineate the difference between me and someone else by making them smaller and myself larger, or them inferior and making myself superior. And then be innocent as the dove means that we are strong enough to remain empty when being confronted with stuff that is poisonous.

Jim: Not having to hit back. I mean that’s wonderfully said. I’ll be saying that to my teen boys. Senator Lankford anything you’d like to add to those two things.

Senator Lankford:: Well, well, Jim (Daly), Jim (Daly), far be it from me to give you parent advice when over the years I’ve taken great parenting advice from Focus on the Family. But le...let me...let me just say this. I do remind parents as I mentioned before; parents you are the example, especially on the issue of race. So, what kids see when they see Charlottesville, they’re going to hear their parents respond to them and they’re going to try to figure out what is it that our family believes about race and about honoring other people based on what their parents say. So parents, you talk about when you see the news to your kids about race and about loving all people and about engaging those conversations. It will make a tremendous difference.

And this whole idea about Solution Sundays is this very simple idea, and it really does get back to the family. We believe there should be some sort of national conversation on race. The national conversation on race really means family conversations on race all over the country, and it’s a very simple question. Has your family ever invited another family of another race to your home for dinner? Just a simple Sunday lunch or Sunday dinner, inviting another family over so your kids are interacting with kids of another race and you’re just having a normal conversation. It doesn’t have to be deep or complicated it just demonstrating to your kids, we love all, we’re engaging with all and we’re doing that relationship. I’m astounded the number of people that I talk to that their family has never invited another family of another race to their home for dinner and I’ve said over and over to people, we will never get all the issues on the table about race until we get all of our feet under the same table to talk about the basic friendships and relationships that we can have. So parents set the tone in your home.

Jim: Man I love that. I so appreciate that. I know both of you have to run. We may have already lost Senator Scott, he was going to a meeting. Thank you for calling us in the middle of the night from Israel. I hope all the things that you’re trying to accomplish there are God-breathed and you can, uh, rest tonight the rest of the way. Thank you for your leadership, Senator Lankford, so appreciate it.

Senator Lankford: I appreciate so much what Focus on the Family continues to do on all these area including difficult areas. And so, thanks for leading out on it as well.

Closing:

Jim: I hope you appreciate what I’m appreciating right now. I mean, I am just encouraged by the fact that these two men, both believers in Christ, one black, one white, um... not only are Senators, but more importantly are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Man! There is hope for our nation. We don’t need to, uh, be overly burdened. God has His people in the right places. Pray for our nation. That is so important for us to do. Pray for the President. Pray for the Senators. Pray for the Congressmen. It’s critical.

As we close I wanna offer some helpful resources for you and your family.

First, we want you to have a free audio download of a bold and powerful message from Pastor Tony Evans, one of our great friends here at Focus on the Family. It’s called “Seeing Race Through Jesus’ Eyes.” We need to hear this because Pastor Evans does such a great job of explaining race relations from a biblical viewpoint using wonderful examples from Scripture; the woman at the well.

Second, Dr. Evans has written the book, Oneness Embraced, which calls us to unity based on the truth of the Bible. He also weaves in some of his personal story as an African-American pastor, reflecting on history and culture, the church and social justice issues. So, get a hold of Focus on the Family today and for a gift of any amount I will send you a copy of Tony Evans’ book as our way of saying thank you.

And, finally, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you’ve heard the Senators talk about this and where the solution rests to bring people together, whether they’re racially different or ideologically different, we as Christians need to reach out to people and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. If you don’t have that personal relationship with Christ, and you want to make that commitment, we have something for you. It’s called Coming Home. It’s a booklet that describes for you what it means to become a Christian. It has simple steps to grow in your new faith and I would encourage you to ask us for a copy of the booklet Coming Home when you get in touch with us.

So call us at 800, the letter A and the word Family. That’s 1-800-A-Family or visit us online at focusonthefamily.com/radio. That’s focusonthefamily.com/radio. And thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m Jim Daly inviting you back tomorrow when we’ll help your family thrive in Christ.

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More Episode Resources

Guest

Tim Scott

View Bio

Tim Scott is the junior U.S. Senator for South Carolina. Prior to joining the Senate in 2013, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for South Carolina's 1st congressional district, and in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Learn more about Sen. Scott by visiting his website, www.scott.senate.gov.

Guest

James Lankford

View Bio

James Lankford is the junior U.S. Senator for Oklahoma. Prior to joining the Senate in 2015, he served as the U.S. Representative for Oklahoma's 5th congressional district. Learn more about Sen. Lankford by visiting his website, www.lankford.senate.gov.