Jim Daly has a candid conversation with a panel of guests who challenge listeners to bridge the racial divide in our culture by proclaiming God's grace and love, which is available to all people, no matter their color, race and nationality. (Part 2 of 2)
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Dr. Harold Davis: Dr. King was motivated by love, the love that comes from Jesus Christ. And as Christians, we have the ability, the wherewithal, to impact the world. Uh, we should be impacting the world. That's my goal.
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John Fuller: We certainly would agree with our brother in Christ, Dr. Harold Davis, who joined us last time on Focus on the Family. And we also had as our guests, Benjamin Watson and Pastor Derwin Gray, for a conversation recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's death.
Welcome to a special broadcast. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: You know, it was a great time of sharing with these men, back in April, for that special commemoration. Last time, we honored the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., and we heard stories from Dr. Davis’s childhood and the racism that he witnessed in his community. Um, you know, terrible stuff.
We talked about personal and systemic sin that drives some of the problems we see in the culture today, including a segregated church. It's true. Sunday is probably the most segregated day of the week.
Now, we want to dive deeper into this honest, open discussion to help further educate us about issues regarding race. And I just want to say keep an open heart. Try to hear it from their perspective, whether you're white or black or Latino. Uh, you know, we come with cultural bias. And listening to one another is the necessary tool.
John: Mm-hm. Yeah. And we left off with Dr. Davis and Benjamin Watson sharing about our need for God to show us our brokenness as individuals, and our ability to do better loving one another, with God’s help. And we're gonna pick up now, Jim, as you asked a question about the difficult task that our police officers have in keeping the peace…
Jim: If we can, let's take that perspective that Ben was talking about, because I think this is where the hard issues are. This is where we really face it, when we see what appears to be young men who may not respond to authority well, when you look at the police. And I don't mean to be offensive. But I'm going to just be general speaking from what that conversation might be like between your white friend, Ben, and you. And you say you see a young man who's running through a place, running from the police. They're telling him to stop. They have to run him down. He may reach into his pocket. They're telling him to get on the ground. And you're seeing this conflict, these officers are having to make these split-second decisions. They make the wrong decision. And I would want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they're trying to figure out in a split second is that a gun coming out? Is it a cellphone? They don't now.
Jim: And there are bad apples. Don't get me wrong. I get the fact that there's going to be racist police officers. But what about the good cop that is trying to just...
Derwin Gray: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: ...Do his job?
Harold: In my city, I have police officers mentoring little boys in elementary school, middle school and high school. And so, two things happen. The police officer learns about the kids...
Harold: ...The kids learn about the police officers. One police officer didn't wear his uniform for the first four weeks, three weeks...
Jim: Just to let the kids get to know him as a person. That's good.
Harold: And I tell you what, you better not say anything about him. Those kids will defend him...
Jim: (Chuckling) Yeah. Right.
Harold: ... because he has shown them that he's a decent human being, who happens to be a police officer.
Derwin: And so, I would - I would add that every video clip that is seen is not seen in a vacuum. And so, the idea of unarmed black men being shot hearkens back to the injustices that black men have experienced throughout history.
Jim: So, it's that culmination.
Derwin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jim: I get that.
Derwin: And so, you know, for example, Dylann Roof can shoot up a black church, and he's alive. Recently a young woman...
Benjamin Watson: He went into Burger King, too.
Derwin: ...Yeah, yeah. And so recently, a young white kid shoots up a high school, and he's alive. I read the other day - I forget what state it was in - but a white man shot at the police, came outside of his house, fought the police and he's alive.
Derwin: And so, let me say, at Transformation Church, I have two awards for working with CPMD. And so, we value and honor our police and we know...
Jim: That's the Charlotte Police Department.
Derwin: ...Yeah. Just like we know that there are bad pastors, there are some police who are unhealthy. The idea is, and the reality is, is black men are seen as a threat. So, I have a - I have a 17-year-old son. He's a Division 1 football player. And if you don't see his face, you'd think he's a man. He's 6' 1, 209 pounds. If you see his face, you could tell he's a boy. But there's this persona that if you see Ben Watson without a suit and a tie on, and he's wearing a hoodie, he would be profiled.
Derwin: He would be profiled. And so, there's a heightened awareness and a profile that already kicks this thing off. And so, what we're saying is we do need the mentoring. We do need those relationships. That is incredibly important. That's what we've tried to do at Transformation Church by having the chief of police come.
And we had a shooting in Charlotte. And so, we had a young man who protested. We had a judge there. We had a police captain. And we had a real, honest, frank conversation. And that's what we don't have...
Derwin: ... is we don't listen to each other. And particularly - now, this is the hard part. People in the majority culture have not had to listen. My life, our lives as black men, we've had to listen to the dominant narrative culture to survive.
Derwin: You didn't have to know my story. And so, it's very difficult for majority people to not be patronizing. It's very hard to be students.
For example, in our town, like, we're one of the fastest growing and most influential multi-ethnic churches in the country. But we'll have people in our town that are predominately white churches that’ll say we're going to do a multi-ethnic church. But they won't come learn from us.
Jim: (Chuckling) Heh...that's...
Derwin: The reality is there is an implicit bias.
Derwin: And the gospel says, no. I need to look beyond cultural stereotypes, and I need to see through the blood of the cross to see you in the imago dei. And humility says, "I can learn from anybody." There's not a lot of learning. There's a lot of talking.
Jim: No. That's true - imago dei, of course, being made in the image of God, which we are as human beings. Let me come back with a couple of other, hopefully, open, honest questions.
When you look at the issue in the country right now, like with the heritage of statues. Thomas Jefferson - we know that he was imperfect as a human being and the framers of the Constitution and what they attempted to do, albeit at the time they didn't achieve it, which - we're all created equal. They used the language but didn't apply it obviously. It took time. And we're still in that process in many ways. So, when you look at the removal of statues, some in the white community, obviously, will say "But these are just historical figures.” Part of their dark side was this idea that they allowed slavery continue, even though some of them may have given up their slaves back then." So, help the white community better understand why that is an issue rather than for us to react and say, "Come on, everybody. These are just historical figures that were flawed."
Harold: A few years ago, Michael Jackson came out with black shoes, white socks, black pants and a leather jacket.
Harold: And, my daughter and the kids thought that was the greatest thing. It scared me, because back in the day when white guys wore leather black - leather jacket, white T-shirt and black pants, white socks, black shoes - that was not good. Whenever we see that, we run. That was bad. (Chuckling)
Jim: Because that was like a gang situation or a...
Harold: Well, they - yes. It was... We saw them as the Klan.
Jim: Oh, OK.
Harold: We would get away from them, because they would hurt us. They would hurt us. So, whereas, that - even today, when I see somebody dressed like that, I sit up and pay attention...
Harold: ...Even today. So that's threatening to me. That's threatening to me. It doesn't mean anything to other people, you know? But to me, it's very threatening. So, that's what he's saying.
Derwin: You know, I would say, as it pertains to the statues - I would encourage people to watch the movie about William Wilberforce. And one of the things...
Jim: It's a great movie.
Derwin: And one of the things that he did is he would get people on a boat and he'd talk to them, music would be playing. And then they would pull up next to a slave ship. And the stench would just be overbearing and overwhelming to the people. And so, when you think about slavery and what that means, the depth of it, that statue is equivalent to having statues in Germany of Hitler.
Derwin: Like, why would I want to see a statue - like, when I've been to Germany to preach? Hitler - you don't even want to talk about him. Like, they don't even want to acknowledge that brutal, ugly past. And the reality is I'm thankful for this country. I loved the United States of America. I am thankful, thankful. But like any family you have to be honest that this land belonged to Native Americans. This country was built on the backs of slaves. And if you don't acknowledge your past, you're not going to acknowledge the spiritual heredity that has us where we are. And that's one of my problems is people will go, "Well, that was a long time ago." Yet when we look at World War II from a long time ago - greatest generation ever. So, like if we're a family, we have to acknowledge the good and we have to acknowledge the bad. And so, when my son sees a Confederate flag, when we see a Confederate statue, that doesn't speak to, like, man, great history and legacy. That speaks to – no, these were people who deemed other people three-fifths of a human being. And so, I'm 22 percent European. How did that happen?
Derwin: And so, you know, it was kind of in slavery days, you know, those black men are going to want our women. Well, how did I become 22-percent European, and my aunt has blonde hair and green eyes? So... so like, we got to be honest about some things. And the gospel says, nail all of your sin to the cross. I'll nail my righteousness to you, fill you with the Holy Spirit, so that you can embody love.
Benjamin: It's also about understanding the time-frame. When you talk about statues, obviously, these are historical figures. There's a stroke of context there. But the time-frame that many of these statues were erected was a time in our country where there was... very tumultuous, when it comes to blacks gaining rights. And so, as a kind of "remember your place," many of the statues were erected. So, you have generations of black folks who see these statues every day. Remember when the statues went up, and understand that, you know, this statue was put up to tell me and remind me, don't get too far out of where you're supposed to be. Remember the order that has been established throughout the country, and don't forget it. So, we'll put this statue up just to remind you of that. And now 30, 40, 50, 80 years later, after some of the statues were put up, it's, oh, that's our history. But no, these people are still alive, who remember when these statues went up. And me, even though I wasn't when many of them went up - when I see certain statues, I remember that about them.
Benjamin: I remember moving to South Carolina. I have a friend. I even talk about him in the book. I go into his house. It's Rock Hill, South Carolina. He's a good friend of mine now, a really good friend of mine. He was on my football team - white guy. I go to his house finally for the first time. I walk into his bedroom - look up. He's got a Confederate flag over his bed stapled to the ceiling. I was in shock. I moved down from Virginia, which isn't really North, but doesn't have many Confederate flags flying around in Virginia as South Carolina. Long story short - I came back to his home maybe at the end of the season. And the flag was gone. We never really talked about it. But, now when I've talked to him about it, he remembers taking it down. And he says, you know, I'm not sure if it was because of you, or because I just thought it wasn't cool anymore, after understanding and hearing something from you, but I decided to take it down. Because he understood that his liberty to fly the flag was contingent upon his relationship and how it offended somebody else. Sure, he could do whatever he wanted to do. We can fight a fight. But if you look at - even at the state of South Carolina, the Confederate flag was put on top of the state House during the civil rights era. That's when it was put up there as another reminder. And so, we have to be honest about these symbols of the past - and whether they're people, or whether they're are flags - because they are tied to oppression, and they're tied to hatred and racism. And so, you know, it's one thing to ignore that and say, you know, they're just historical figures. It's another thing to sit there and say, look, I understand what this person represents for a lot of people. But I still want him up there. And that honest conversation is what we're not having. We're simply deflecting and just making it about history when it's about much more than that.
John: That… that context that you just offered, Ben, is hugely important to me. I grew up in an all-white community in upper - in the upper Midwest. And over the years, God has blessed me with good friendships with those who are outside of that kind of middle-class white upbringing that I had. But I had never thought about the context, the historical context. And so, I will admit to you that I have trouble, when I see the expunging of what I perceive as just historical record. And what you're saying is no, a lot of times the historical record was put into place in an effort to essentially keep people reminded of their past.
Benjamin: You can't erase history. History can never be erased - I mean, whatever history - I mean, biblical history, pre-biblical history, recent American history. You're not going to erase it. It still happened. What the conflict over now is, how do we remember and commemorate and honor people and times? And what do we tell the current generations about those people and times? It's not going to be erased, because history's already happened.
Harold: Well, all I wanted to say is that love - I've learned in all my years...
Harold: Love is the big stick. And if I hit you with that big stick, you're not going to be right. You're not going to be right. Love is the stick I got to carry - keep in my hand. And I got to - I love white people. I love black people. And I think that if we get people in love with Jesus, we're going to solve the problems.
Jim: Dr. Davis, give us that picture of Frank Peoples. Who was he?
Harold: Frank Peoples was a deacon at a church. And he was different than all of the other white people. Now, I'm speaking from the position of a little boy. I was in the sixth or seventh grade. Frank Peoples - as a child, if Jesus Christ had clothes, or if he had flesh, he would be Frank Peoples.
Jim: Why that impression? What did he do?
Harold: Well, he - as I look back on it now, he was a Spirit-filled Christian. OK. And he acted out of a heart of concern and compassion.
Jim: So, you saw consistency there.
Harold: I saw consistency. I saw consistent concern, consistent compassion. And he helped my dad feed our family, when we were struggling. My dad worked three jobs - old school - born in 1904. He worked three jobs. And he still struggled to feed his family. And on occasion, Frank Peoples helped us. And so, I look back to him as my example. His love changed my life. Because when I encountered Frank Peoples I had to decide whether to follow Dr. King, whether to be loving, or whether to be - forgive me, I am 16.
Jim: More militant.
Harold: Militant - you know, I had to make that decision. And Frank Peoples - he was genuine. I couldn't find a chink in his armor.
Harold: As a white man - I couldn't find any racism in him. You know, if you - back then, if you stayed with a white man long enough, you find something that would make you question him, you know. So, Frank Peoples - I couldn't find anything.
Jim: Well, Pastor Gray, I mean, that's kind of your point, isn't it? - when you see authentic love in people, regardless of their skin color, in every direction, black and white. That's the gospel.
Derwin: Yeah. And, you know, it's - proximity creates intimacy, and intimacy is in-to-me-you-see. And so, you know, as a pastor, that's where I go back to-- the local church is the classroom for this divine experiment to take place. And so, when you're in relationship, love begins to break down those barriers. And it's important to understand, is that in the United States of America now, it's not just a black-white issue. It's Latino. It's Asian. It's all the - the nations...
Jim: It's gender.
Derwin: ...have come to the United States of America.
Jim: It's gender. It's financial. It's all of it.
Derwin: It's everything that Paul said – “neither Jew nor Greek, free nor slave, male nor female,” like I'm a biblical exegete. And I’m like, everything that we need has been dealt with in the first century, second temple of Jewish context. Those were the churches that Paul built. Those churches affected the Roman Empire. Caesar wanted the oneness that the Pauline churches brought about. Caesar couldn't unify Jews and Gentiles.
Derwin: But Paul could, because of the Spirit of God and the work of Christ.
Jim: Let me ask this final question. I know you all have things you've got to get to, so I don't want to keep you much longer. But I really have enjoyed the discussion. Let's give each other permission - and I think we've done it to an extent - but to give advice. Give me advice as a white Christian man. What do I need to be aware of - what do - where I miss it? I didn't grow up in a... a racist environment in Southern California. It just wasn't part of it. And it's pretty multi-ethnic there with Hispanic and white and black living together in the neighborhoods I lived in. But help me understand, speaking to white America, what do we need to know that we don't know?
Harold: You need to know that you need to put love first. If you love a brother - I haven't met anybody yet that doesn't respond positively to love.
Jim: But we need to put that into some kind of action. You know, I can hear that, Dr. Davis, but how do I, how do I do it? How do I break out of my suburban neighborhood? I mean, you're a pastor. You try to get people to do anything and you get frustrated, right? Can we have 40 volunteers to help serve cookies? And you get two.
Derwin: By God's grace, it's a little bit different at Transformation Church. By God's grace. I would say the first thing is, we have to go back to what was the nature and purpose of the church? Was it to send people to heaven when they die? Or was it to embody the kingdom of God on Earth? Paul gave a snippet of what the kingdom looks like. He says that all those who've been baptized in Christ are clothed with Christ. Therefore, there's neither Jew, nor Greek. So, what that means is there is no ethnic superiority. There's neither slave nor poor. What that means is classism is crucified. There's neither male, nor female. That means that sexism is crucified. And so, you have a snippet of what the kingdom looks like. So, what I would say is, this is a discipleship issue. I can't speak to you individually. We need to corporately, as the church, have more multi-ethnic churches that are embodying the Pauline gospel to create disciples to go into the world as ambassadors of reconciliation. We have to move beyond, "I just need to say to you, you need..." you know. No. It's we need churches. That's why I'm passionate. That's why we are equipping churches. That's why I wrote a book on it. That's why I'm getting my doctorate. That's why I'm doing these things, because I want to multiply pastors who then build churches that embody the message of Jesus, expressed through the letters of Paul's epistles.
Jim: So, there may be hundreds of pastors listening to the program right now. What are the two things you would say to that pastor that he could do to begin to become more interracial? What does he need to do?
Derwin: I would say the first thing to do is order my book. It's called...
Derwin: Hey. I'm serious.
Jim: Yeah. Go for it.
Derwin: I didn't write it for no reason. It's called...
Jim: We'll have you back on and talk about it.
Derwin: It's called The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World. That's one. And then, the second thing to do is find a book by N.T. Wright and read that.
John: Ben, how about you? What - not coming from pastoral view - but just talking to moms and dads and people like Jim and me, what can we do practically to move the needle on cutting down the racism and starting to see the church come together and lead the way?
Benjamin: Well, again, I will say there definitely is a heart issue. And you need to - if you're a believer listening, you need to honestly get before God and then get a real inventory of your heart. Is your heart hard? Has it been hardened by politics? Has it been hardened by your family history? Has it been hardened by your sphere of friends, your cultural groups, your societal groups, the circles that you hang in? Has it been hardened, because of maybe personal instances that have happened to you, ways you've been hurt? Is your heart hard when it comes to this issue so that you can't even open your ears if you want to? Because there's a lot of people who say they want to hear, they want to understand but, you know, their heart is hard. And they need to pray and get on their knees and say, "God, open me, so that I can find out how you want me to engage in this. How do you want me to approach this?" After that, I would say be willing to listen intentionally. Create intentional relationships that may not happen organically."
John: And how do I do that?
Benjamin: You do that at your workplace, on your school - your kids' teams. You do it in your neighborhood, although our neighborhoods are very, very segregated still, which makes it difficult. You do that even now through social media. There are ways that you can do that. Thirdly, I would say, educate yourself. If you really want to understand, there are so many resources - books, movies, documentaries - to educate yourself on what you're not familiar with. I'm still educating myself and understanding. I recently read a book called, The Color of Law, about residential segregation and how that contributes to the ills that we have when it comes to policing and when it comes to home ownership and wealth and all those sorts of things. Be willing to open and expand yourself to educate yourself on this issue. And so, if you're open and you educate yourself, you'll be moved to act at that point.
Jim: I think...
Benjamin: And then finally...
Benjamin: ...I would say repent. That's a Christian word. That's a Bible word. But a lot of us need to repent. Individually, corporately as a church, as a family, as a nation. Repent. And the other side of that is forgive. It's two-sided. And so, if you're open, you're willing to educate yourself, you're willing to have intentional conversations and relationships - you're willing to repent, then that's when you can really see the breadth of what racism really is, and how it's bigger than, you know, two white guys and three black guys talking at a table. Like, it affects when we look out this window at the city of Memphis and we look at certain areas of the city that are struggling, it affects all those things. But you can't even grasp that for most of us until we're willing to be open and educate ourselves and repent and have forgiveness and have God lead us when it comes to that.
Jim: Well, you've hit it. And gentlemen, this has been a terrific discussion. I'm so grateful to all three of you for carving out some time to have it and to talk with us. Ben, your book, Under Our Skin - I think it's a great discussion starter to get the book and read it. You can get that through "Focus on the Family." And Derwin, we'll be looking for your book. Is it out already?
Derwin: The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multi-ethnic World.
Jim: OK. We'll check on that. Maybe we can get that through "Focus on the Family." But we'll check. And Dr. Davis, thank you so much.
Harold: Thank you, Jim.
Derwin: Thank you, guys.
Jim: Appreciate it.
John: And this is Focus on the Family, and our panel in Memphis, Tennessee, included Benjamin Watson, Pastor Derwin Gray and Dr. Harold Davis. And, as we said earlier, that was recorded on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s death.
Jim: John, I invited listeners, when we began this series, to listen with an open heart and mind, and to try and learn something from hearing different perspectives. It's a challenge to do. But I know we can do it. I hope we’ve accomplished that through the dialogue. And my prayer is that you will continue the conversation with others in your community and build some of those relationship bridges.
Most of all, I hope that, as you reach out to others around you, you’ll reach them with the love of Christ in the things that you say and do. That is the core.
I also want to invite you to stand with us in our efforts to bring more racial harmony into communities across the country with messages like this one that we’ve presented today.
Someone said this about one of our previous broadcasts on the topic, John. They wrote: “This is the kind of honest and caring dialogue that we need more of. Loving our neighbors as ourselves but reaching beyond our neighborhoods. We need to seek out others who are different and not retreat to our own corners of comfort.” That's well said.
We want to help you love others with the love of Christ, and you are directly involved in helping us do that when you give to Focus on the Family.
So, can I ask you to consider making a monthly pledge of any amount to help Focus? We will use those resources wisely to extend the kingdom of God. To save a marriage, save a baby's life, and so much more. If you do that, we’d like to send you a copy of Benjamin Watson’s book, Under Our Skin, as our way of saying thank you.
John: Make that monthly donation, or if you can't afford a monthly commitment, make a one-time gift of any amount, and we’ll still send a copy of Benjamin's book. You can also get a CD or download of this two-part broadcast. Stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire Focus on the Family team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Recent Focus on the Family Broadcast EpisodesGo To Most Recent Episode
Dr. Harold DavisView Bio
Dr. Harold Davis is the pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Champaign, Illinois, and the creator of the TALKS Mentoring Leadership Movement (www.talksmentoring.org). He is the author of several books including Can I Call You Soldier?, Talks My Father Never Had With Me, and his latest, Transmission. Dr. Davis his wife, Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, have been married since 1980. They have five grown children and three grandchildren.
Derwin GrayView Bio
Benjamin WatsonView Bio
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints. His NFL career began in 2004 when he was drafted by the New England Patriots. He received a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season and appeared in another Super Bowl in 2007. In 2010, Benjamin joined the Cleveland Browns and led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He signed a three year contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2013 and joined the Ravens in 2016. Off the field, Benjamin stays busy with his foundation, One More, his growing family and the NFL Players Association, where he serves on the Executive Committee. He is also an NFL spokesman for the All Pro Dad Campaign. Benjamin has authored two books, Under Our Skin and The New Dad's Playbook. Learn more about Benjamin by visiting his website, www.thebenjaminwatson.com.