Confessions of a Former Racist
by Jeremy R. Haskins
This year Martin Luther King Jr. Day provided a significant moment for me as a dad. As I threw a baseball with three of my four sons, I stopped for a moment to consider with amazement the scene before me. There stood three boys, two white and one black, and they all with equal rights share my last name.
I have often thought like Brad Paisley, "If I could write a letter to me and send it back in time to myself at 17 …" If possible, the first thing I would do is rebuke every bit of the residue of racism that was alive in my life at that time.
I grew up in the rural south, and as a teenager racism was still very much ingrained in my culture. It was subtle, selective, and for the most part, behind the scenes. However, when it reared its head, it often directed its venom at two things that I now value most in life: family and missions. It was a racism that allowed us to distinguish between those we claimed to love and pray for in Africa and those we neglected in our neighborhoods.
It breaks my heart to say that "the way I was raised" often trumped the Gospel on certain issues of race. I'm very proud of where I am from, but this is one root I've had to dig up, burn, and destroy. In doing so, I've realized that racism isn't just cultural — it is satanic.
As I watched my oldest son teach his little brother the right way to hold his glove when fielding a ground ball it brought me to tears. I immediately thanked God that I was literally seeing the sin of their father pass over them. I praised Him for the way my family is a repudiation of the anti-Jesus prejudices I once subtly embraced.
The truth is, at 17, I already had a letter that had been written to me. I held it in my lap every Sunday morning. I just wasn't really paying much attention to it. If I had, maybe I would have repented of my sin of racism, understanding that, From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live (Acts 17:26).
Jeremy R. Haskins is associate pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.
Sunday, February 13, is Racial Reconciliation Sunday. For resources, logon to www.erlc.com and click on "Issues."
True Love Waits in Zambia
"All these years I've been looking for love, and I've found it," Cassius says.
He and his wife Lukunda, twenty-something Zambians, look lovingly at each other as they remember their recent wedding day. Standing in front of family and friends, they exchanged True Love Waits commitment cards they signed years ago as teenagers.
True Love Waits, a LifeWay Christian Resources initiative, is an international campaign to encourage youth to strive for God's best for them through sexual purity before marriage and faithfulness during marriage. True Love Waits International is now working in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Swaziland, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Zambia's culture is one in which witch doctors and traditional healers in some areas suggest sleeping with a virgin or a married person to cure HIV/AIDS. It also is culturally acceptable for a Zambian man in some areas to have sex with another woman if he isn't satisfied with his wife.
Cassius and Lukunda are proud they resisted societal pressures and now are positive role models for their friends and family.
"Most people would say you couldn't manage to live without [premarital] sex," Lukunda says.
However, "we [exchanged] our cards and everyone [was] able to know we were able to keep the commitment — that we actually waited for each other," Cassius adds. "People now refer to us as examples and ask us about the cards."
When Cassius and Lukunda signed the cards, they promised a commitment to "my God, myself, my family, my country, my friends, my future spouse and my future children to remain sexually pure until the day I give myself only to my marriage partner in a faithful marriage relationship."
Many of Cassius and Lukunda's peers have not remained pure and are now living with HIV/AIDS. They also have children who are at risk. Many more are in unhappy marriages.
Zambia has one of the world's most devastating HIV/AIDS pandemics. More than one in every seven adults in the country is living with HIV and life expectancy at birth has fallen to just thirty-nine years. In 2009, nearly 83,000 adults were newly infected with HIV—about two hundred new infections each day. Nearly 5 percent of those diagnosed will die each year.
And unlike many countries, Zambia's HIV/AIDS plague does not primarily affect the most underprivileged; infection rates are high among wealthier people and the better educated.
Cassius and Lukunda, now employees of True Love Waits International in Zambia, are trying to improve the chances for longer, healthier lives for their countrymen. They look forward to the future and hope one day to show their children the commitment cards they exchanged.
They also know that marriage will present its own challenges.
"The battle that we are in now is [for] faithfulness," Lukunda says. "It is important that we abstain [from sex outside of marriage], because it is God's plan for us to be faithful to our marriage partner."
"True Love Waits comes as a solution," Cassius says. "Not only does it help one run away from HIV/AIDS, [but also] from things that can affect them, destroying their dream families, destroying their life goals. True Love Waits looks at God as the solution. He has given us the solution to use sex in the right manner, in a marriage relationship. The Bible is the solution."
True Love Waits 3.0
LifeWay Christian Resources' True Love Waits ministry has launched True Love Waits 3.0: A Path of Purity.
The initiative follows a study of how the seventeen-year-old ministry can be more effective for future generations.
Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits, noted that feedback from student ministry leaders indicated a need for more emphasis on parental participation, specifically to support parents in their role as the primary spiritual developers of their children.
"While the message in society today is one of encouraging teen sex, these leaders emphasized that many parents are in denial as to the scope of the problem and the ways their children are affected," Hester said.
In response, True Love Waits created True Love Waits 3.0: A Path of Purity, which builds on the ministry's sexual-abstinence-until-marriage message to include a variety of markers students experience from childhood to young adulthood. Resources supporting this new emphasis will guide parents and church leaders to take advantage of these markers and treat them as teachable moments on purity.
"Walking the path of purity is not easy, but it's the right way," Hester said. "After careful consideration through interaction with student workers and students, we realized that this emphasis [True Love Waits] has often been viewed as a one-time event emphasis."
For True Love Waits information and resources, go to lifeway.com/tlw.
True Love Waits Emphasis - February 1-28
Racial Reconciliation Sunday - February 13
Focus on WMU - February 14-20
Children's Ministry Day - February 19
Week of Prayer and Mission Study for North American Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering - March 6-13
Youth Week - March 6 - 12
Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday - March 20
Start a Church Sunday - March 27
SBC Seminaries Sunday - April 3
Cooperative Program Sunday - April 10
Baptist Doctrine Study - April 10 - 15
Life Commitment Sunday - April 17