Every day we’re surrounded by people who are out in the trenches
getting their hands dirty as they change the world. We can see the
subtle ripple effects of their efforts—if we’re paying attention.
All these people—not only are they helping one person find victory, but they’re paving the way for entire families to be healthy and the next generation to stand in triumph. They are reforming society one person at a time. I call them Culture Changers. Culture Changers understand that we are all broken and need a Savior’s hand to become whole-spirit, soul, and body.
July Feature – Amy Lancaster
“Change happens one neighbor at a time.”https://wewillgo.org/
I heard Amy in 2017 at a Women Abide conference in Charlottesville, Va. Her words challenge us to consider our prejudices and evaluate how well we serve people that are different from ourselves.
Another Side of Charlottesville
Not every post will feature a ministry leader or share a news story. The other day, I witnessed a scene that I knew I would write about this month. Most Culture Changers are ordinary people living their life in a way that brings healing to others.
Some of you may have heard of Charlottesville, VA-that racist college town riddled with KKK members and murderers-NOT! Yes, UVa student, Hannah Graham, was kidnapped and murdered a few years ago. Yes, the KKK and Antifa came into town on August 2017 to protest the proposed removal of confederate statues. Another murder happened that day. And yes, Charlottesville is a Southern college town flawed with elitism and racial disparities.
These issues are everywhere, not just here. Perhaps some of the nation’s rekindled focus on racism will actually open some eyes and change some hearts. We need the redemptive power of Jesus Christ to dispel sin and ignorance. Racism is a sign of spiritual blindness. Lord, open our eyes!
I came here for college in 1987 from Rochester, NY. The number of interracial couples among rural and city residents stood out to me. This was a bit strange for this Northern girl who had known one bi-racial girl in her Shaker Heights, OH, elementary school. I’d learned that all white Southerners hated black people.
The other day I was in the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru. A young black woman walked in front of an elderly white man. She opened the door, but instead of entering first and holding the door open behind her, she paused to let him walk around her and enter first. Whether deferring to his age or because he was white and she lived in Charlottesville, I’ll never know. But he shook his head, reached for the door, and nodded for her to enter first. It impressed me. Unknowingly, his action could have contradicted some of her personal experience. His response was “counter-culture” to what many believe about this town. A couple of months ago, I met a young black man in another city who asked me why I still live here. I told him to stop making far-reaching conclusions from what he saw on TV about my town.
Back to my drive-thru scene: some feminists may call the older man’s behavior a symptom of social patriarchy. Perhaps, someone taught him how to “be a gentleman,” an idea that could be rooted in gender prejudice. However, it also carries the biblical virtue of “honor and esteem.” I will teach my sons to be “gentlemen.”
I needed to witness this gesture from the elderly white man. Sometimes, even when we have good personal experiences with people that look, live, or speak differently, we can get caught up in the culture wars that we read about online. My closest friends are white, but I’d subconsciously begun to wonder if deep inside they had racist perspectives. That elderly white man renewed my original view. Racism cannot be generalized to a people group. This individual sin is rooted in fear and imparted to some, but not to all.
I wonder if a fellow resident or out-of-town visitor in the drive-thru line witnessed this act of kindness. I hope so. Because this is Charlottesville, too.
Love Trumps Skin Color
I love these stories. Many of you may have seen in on social media. Love is so simple. Why do we make it so difficult?
“We had one plan and God changed the game completely,” she wrote on Instagram. “Ezra has given us a larger purpose and we’ve learned so much from him in the short two weeks he’s been with us. Families DON’T have to match! They are built on LOVE!”
Sacrificing Personal Peace
Not many black men would sign up to work for President Trump, but Ja’Ron Smith has chosen to use his own experiences with racism to help shape policies. Criticism from the black community did not deter him from his assignment. Smith recognizes that being in close proximity to key Trump advisors gives him the opportunity to offer a perspective that otherwise may not be known.
Smith choose a Republican platform for many reasons. He was born in Cleveland, went to an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and decided to align his political views with his faith convictions. In addition, he felt black issues had been ignored in his hometown.
“He grew up in an area that was dominated by Democratic politics and yet still had many of the socioeconomic issues that you see in other urban centers,” Mr. Andrews said. “He’s said, ‘I asked myself why does this exist, and if what we’ve been doing isn’t working, then why not try something different?’”
As a man of color, working for the President’s administration is not easy.
“It’s definitely something that he notices, and it’s something that he is dealing with,” Brandon Andrews, a former Republican Senate aide and friend of Mr. Smith’s, said when he was asked how Mr. Smith had reacted to the president’s heated language.https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/12/us/politics/jaron-smith-trump-white-house.html?smid=fb-share
Mr. Smith has made an impression on the President’s son-in-law. From the article: “He’s a pragmatist, he’s a deal maker, he’s a ‘how do we get to yes’ type of person,” Mr. Kushner said. “He does believe that you have to go into places that Republicans don’t normally go.”
Although Ja”Ron Smith apparently avoids interviews and his friends say that working for this administration can be stressful for him, I pray that God gives him the stamina to be a voice for the offended.
In my book, Culture Changers, I wrote: “…if no one takes this risk, it is likely the oppressor’s heart will not be changed, which means systemic oppression will not be changed either. When a leader stays corrupt, the people continue to suffer. So someone needs to be brave and choose to help the leader.” Although Ja’Ron Smith is focusing on doing the job for which he was hired, as a man of faith, his integrity, and bipartisan approach gives God the opportunity to bring necessary perspective changes in our President.
As Culture Changers, bringing godly change in our circles of influence is not always easy or enjoyable. Let us encourage and pray for one another.
Read the entire New York Times article here.