I’m listening, friends. I may sound like the worlds biggest pagan most of the time, but I’m listening. You can send anything you want my way and I’ll offer the world’s most honest opinion. One of my friends sent me something to review and I’m about to give it.
The email came from one of my more evangelical friends, who passed on the email as she had received it from one of her friends. And while the content is fine and the message is fine, the context of the friend’s email put me off.
“…many years ago by a black pastor. Just found it on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffzB_HK9sNU …”
What’s the right way to say this?
I looked it up. His name was Doctor Shadrach Meshach Lockridge. He was an enthusiastic speaker, and if his pastoral skills were a match to his preaching, if this small snippet is representative, believe it or not, even I might sign up. He was not just “a black pastor.” He was an educated man of letters with a speaking skill not often matched, if the churches I’ve been to are representative. Some people stumble over their notes, say things that aren’t in there as if they are, fake their enthusiasm or their drama, put on a big show every weekend and then go back to their humdrums, or maybe they seem boring to you. Sorry, boring pastors. If it doesn’t seem alive and believable, I’m not going to come back for a second helping.
Well meaning people. I’m not really offended at the intent. I’m trying not to be offended at the content. The intent was to introduce me to a way of looking at the Jesus of the New Testament, as promised in the Old Testament. The content was off-putting somehow. If she had just said “by a great pastor,” or “by a great speaker,” or “by the famous Dr. Lockridge,” I would have had no difficulty with the message. But, “…by a black pastor.” I don’t know the right way to say this. I wish I did. It’s simple enough to suggest that the introduction was, to me, dismissive, a little disrespectful. I would like to use stronger words to describe how unflattering the description was, but I don’t know the right way to say this. The problem is, the video and its’ description were very probably sent intending to be positive and not intending any offense.
He was a doctor. With not just one doctorate. He was an author. He preached around the world, and in his pastorate it was said that he reached over 100,000 people. Look at him. I’m no preacher. I’m more like Pontius Pilate introducing Jesus in John 19:15: “Behold the man.” Do what you want with him. Easter is coming, so I have to apologize. I have my mind on that a bit.
People have all kinds of reasons to be dismissive of other people. They don’t look the same (skin color, really, this is the 21st century!), they don’t act the same (as nice), they don’t sound the same (as educated), they don’t look the same (as wealthy), they don’t think the same (as philosophically programmed). But to be dismissive is to behave as though someone else is less important, less valuable than you are, and that is not right. If you think you’re superior, your inferiority has blinded you. If you think you’re inferior, you’re lying to yourself.
How would the Jesus of the Bible have introduced Dr. Lockridge? In spite of my own personal feelings about Jesus and his opinions of me, I think he would have said, “This is my friend, Dr. Lockridge. Give him your full attention.”
I have long lamented the passing of various people. They come onto the planet, they make a significant contribution of incalculable value to our culture, and then they leave, and I never get to meet these people. Others don’t have the opportunity and after fighting to make their contributions, lose the battle and never get their ideas out. Some become famous. Others do not. Some live out their days and no one notices them.
I try to make it a habit to notice people, and to genuinely care about people. I confess I don’t always succeed. But there’s a guy at work who cleans, and that’s his full-time job. I know his name. If you have a guy, do you know his name, or if you have a woman, do you know hers? Does he smile the obligatory smile when you say hello, if you bother, or does he engage you in conversation? The guy teaches me. He’s an example. And his position is so small, I wonder if no one else notices him. But he’s quiet, and patient, and beautiful. And great. I’m so happy I noticed. I’m so happy I had the chance to meet him. I think sometimes the cleaning lady or the homeless man would have something valuable to say, if we would listen.
The homeless man should teach survival skills and philosophy. They’ve mastered the art of scraping an existence out of nothing. The cleaning person should dispense their wisdom as well, about a life of endurance and the rewards of repetitive tasks done well. These people may not have the book-smarts to earn a degree, but they have gathered wisdom. And we should not be dismissive of them, or of each other.
I confess, I’ve done it myself, and fractured what should have been a good friendship, in the past. I was tired, I wanted to move along and get done what I wanted to get done, and the person I kind of dismissed was going on and on and on in his excitement about what he was doing, where he was living, he had just gotten married, a lot to digest. I SHOULD have invited him to lunch to catch up. Instead I kind of said I needed to get back to my tasks, in a kind of abrupt way. Ugh. I’m sorry. And I had to go to the bathroom. He was miffed, and never spoke to me again. If you’re reading this, not that you ever would, I’m sorry. I moved to another state and have no way of reaching this person, but I know what I did. Maybe he’s forgiven me by now, or forgotten me or written me off or whatever. Fine. I don’t always set the best example. I was rude. I have learned from it, for what it’s worth.
I’ve also been dismissed. Ever been overlooked for that promotion you deserved at work? I have. Ever been overlooked in spite of your credentials or abilities, and another person took the spot you thought you deserved? Or took the spotlight for something you did? I have. Ever been lied to about something important, only later to think back and remember how much that actually hurt you, emotionally, financially, professionally? I have. It’s disrespectful It’s the other person telling you that you are beneath them, they can do what they want and you are just a pawn or another stepping stone on the path to their personal greatness. You were only put on the planet for them to take advantage of you. It’s like being mugged, except it’s done in plain sight and it’s not “criminal.” It’s just “wrong.”
Doctor Lockridge, and a host of other great people, I will never have the chance to meet. But I’ll just offer this as my own wisdom: Don’t be dismissive. Tell the truth. Be polite. Be nice to everyone, from your bosses bosses boss, to the homeless guy who asks for a dollar to buy cigarettes or a bottle of whiskey. You may not really like a person. You may not really like their behavior choices, things they may do. You may not like how they look. It doesn’t matter. Be nice. In a digital world, things are fast, things are said thoughtlessly. I’m not going to take offense at the friend who shared, or really of her friend either. No offense was intended. The message was sent with positive intentions, so I’m not going to act like I have a chip on my shoulder. That’s a set up for more thoughtlessness.
I’m just going to say that while I may not have the same perspective of Jesus that Doctor Lockridge had, I respect what he said and what he did. After all, James said, “Don’t just listen to the Word, and deceive yourself (into thinking you’re fine). Do what it says.” (James 1:22). Doctor Lockridge put his words into actions, at least that’s what I’m reading from his biography. And that is very respectable.
Hey, friends! (And enemies, if I have anyone who thinks of themselves that way) I received a wonderfully presented message about the character and nature of the Jesus of the Bible. The man speaking is the late Doctor Lockridge, who was a famous preacher. Click on his name above to give it a listen. It’s worthwhile. It doesn’t sound like a “performance piece” to me. It sounds like Doctor Lockridge is a friend of Jesus. It sounds like Jesus is very real to him.
After you listen, if you like it, you can hear more of the same at a nearby local church. And if they don’t preach how you like, find another church and give that a try. We are all created equal, but we’re not all given the same abilities. Doctor Lockridge was a gifted speaker. I’m sure you can find a gifted speaker near you. Give them your full attention, even if it’s the homeless gentleman or lady on the street, or the person who cleans your office bathrooms. It will encourage them to be acknowledged, even if it’s a local pastor. And it might even encourage you too.
I did it! No swears. Maybe Doctor Lockridge has made me want to do better about that.