Students Exhorted to Help Reform Societal Views

Post a Comment » Written on April 16th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (April 16, 2007) – Pastor and author Efrem Smith already had planned to speak on the church’s call to promote racial, gender, and class justice when he addressed students during a chapel service at North Park University on Wednesday. The words that led to the firing of radio disc jockey Don Imus highlighted the need for the message.

Imus’ words are a symptom of an entire society that has not lived biblically, said Smith, including the hip-hop culture, corporate offices, the dance floor, and even sanctuaries. “We must admit that we have a long way to go.”

SmithSmith is the pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the urban ministry director of Minnesota Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He also was a featured speaker during CHIC 2006, where he told 6,000 students, “You have a destiny that must be fulfilled. You are not too young to do justice. You are not too young to turn this world upside down for God.” To read that previously published article, see Not Too Young for God.

On Wednesday, Smith preached from Matthew 21-28, in which a Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter, and Jesus initially appears to reject her request based on ethnicity. Jesus replied to her request by saying he only had been sent “to the lost sheep of Israel,” adding, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

The use of “dogs” in that culture was a demeaning term, said Smith, co-author of The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting With the Movement Shaping Our Culture and author of Raising Up Young Heroes.

Smith suggested the passage in Matthew has to be considered in the context of all the times Jesus reached out to women, other ethnic groups and the poor. When he spoke to the Canaanite woman, Jesus was simply bringing to light the prejudices of the culture so that the attitudes could be overcome.

The church, he said, should be at the forefront of transforming harmful views in society. The church has failed many times, Smith believes, but he declared, “We can be right when it comes to race, gender, and class,” adding, “We must admit that we have a way to go.”

Smith exhorted the students to act with hope, stating, “I still believe Jesus changes and redeems people.”

Each of the students, he said, “can bring dignity when people are put down.” If that is to happen, every person must first examine their own hearts, Smith continued, adding his own heart needs continued change.

Speaking of women, Smith said one cannot merely look at them as objects, as society continues to suggest. “I have to honor them as God’s daughters.”

Smith said many people of all races, gender and class are responsible for promoting harmful stereotypes, including the hip-hop culture. He drew particular attention to (rappers) Jay-Z and 50-cent, stating they are just as responsible for demeaning language as was Imus. He also was critical of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in their call for Imus’ resignation despite troubling questions about their own personal lives and conduct.

In the end, he said, the responsibility for change lies with everyone.

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