Audio Series: A Conversation with Doug Logan
Doug Logan shares about reconciliation, as well as the power of prayer in the life of a teacher.
Dr. Doug Logan is the president of Grimké Seminary, the Associate Director of Acts 29, and the Pastor of Church Planting at Remnant Church in Richmond, VA.
The audio recording shared on this site has been edited for time. The full transcript of the conversation between MTR Executive Director David Montague and Doug Logan is below for full context and reference.
DM: First of all, just talk about the idea. How did you get drawn to this idea of reconciliation? What has brought you to the point of being motivated to talk and share and preach the idea of reconciliation?
DL: Well, the idea of reconciliation is rooted for me in the gospel. Jesus’ whole idea of tearing down the wall of hostility, God towards man. It flows out for me in every aspect of life. The gospel isn’t a church thing. It’s a world thing. It’s a world-changing thing. And more personal for me is my wife is white and I have mixed children and so it becomes much more evident, prevalent, and pressing as a pastor married to a white woman with mixed children, that reconciliation is not a theoretical idea when I’m being called nigger and monkey, and there’s deep separation between my wife’s white family and my black family. And beyond Jesus has called us to be reconciled and to have the ministry of reconciliation, so it forces me into figuring it out for the peace of my soul, for the blessing and unity of our family, for my children, and for a new day for my grandchildren.
DM: And what are the key elements of true reconciliation? When you see reconciliation happens, what is happening?
DL: Well, much like the Bible the wall of hostility comes down, but a part leading up to that wall of hostility coming down, there has to be a meeting of the minds that both parties can admit their participation in the hostility. And upon that, sometimes, in all cases particularly in America, that there’s dominant culture has to come to the reality that they are a dominant culture. It doesn’t make them special or evil. It just helps us to understand our role, their role, and my role. My role can’t play the… My role has to come to the table broken desiring to be unified and their role has to be the same. But we have to come together in relationship on a clear playing field, not on one of us being the m’essiah and one of us being the mission, but both of us coming to the Messiah, both of coming to the reality of that and then authentic reconciliation can happen when we admit where and who we are, and our role, and can lay it down for one another.
Speaker 1: How do white people get there?
DL: Well, when you say white people, I’ll say dominant culture. The dominant culture factor for me is… Listen, a lot of white folk they live in the dominant culture and when you live in a dominant culture where it’s white led and, if I was an angry black dude, I’d say white ruled. And I often hear this, “But I never owned slaves.” Your college fund was funded by the slave that your great grandfather owned though, so you got the benefits of slavery. And when they start to make sense and deal with reality, and can lay down their… And stop abdicating to great, great grand pop and start taking ownership.
DL: So often in the Bible, there was things that they didn’t do but they prayed ’cause they came from a line. Isaiah says, “I’m a man of unclean lips and I come from a people of unclean lips.” You have generational issues that you’re a benefit of and when we can own that as owning the history of issues that have led to an oppressive situation, now it’s much easier to just lay that thing down and pick it back up. I just think white people need to dialogue as listeners and not as leaders, ’cause often my white bros wanna lead the conversation, but I’m trying to tell them your problem is you’re in a dominant culture. You’ve been leading this in this way.
DL: And what black folk can do to help white folk is not be so rough sometimes. There’s a difference between a racist and a culturally insensitive person, and a culturally uninformed person who doesn’t understand racism. We have to start having conversations, some hard conversations that doesn’t lead to you saying. “Well, I’m outta here and forget you cracker.” We need to have some conversations. They’re gonna be difficult conversations. They’re gonna be uncomfortable, but grace comes in uncomfortable situations. And if we can give each other grace in these uncomfortable situations, we’ll mess around and find out we’re friends.
DL: I remember back in college and when I was in high school, the Davidson… No there was… Two teams were Wildcats and they were playing each other. And I remember one of my teammates on the basketball team said, “Yo, I’ll take $100 on the Wildcats.” [laughter] That was his bet. And I’ll never forget… So that was the one piece, the funny joke, but the real thing was two people began to argue how the Wildcats were gonna win and the Wildcats were playing the Wildcats. And they thought they were talking about opposite people. They both were fans of the same Wildcats team but that was after 20 minutes of debate and arguing and yelling and dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. “Which Wildcats you talking about? Oh, Kentucky Wild? Yeah. Oh.” It’s the same team.
DL: So, you’re arguing about the same team, but if they would’ve took a second to actually listen to each other, without the hostility, they would have had a meeting of the minds and got to grace much faster. And that’s what I think has gotta happen. And black folk have to help out while white brothers without getting frustrated and walking out. Because “Ah, here we go again,” no. We gotta go through the “here we go again” and endure. Reconciliation is a Crock-Pot, not a frying pan. Got work to do. We gotta soak and get it in.
DM: I enjoy reading a Lot of Martin Luther King and one of the things he said that I felt was fascinating is in explaining the nonviolent techniques. He says, “So much of the violence and hatred that comes from white people is that they’re so ashamed and guilty of what they’ve done for the last 300 years, that all of that is latent frustration within.” This is too similar to the question before but…
DL: Go ahead, go ahead.
DM: How have you seen it work in the past? How has worked? When does it work? When does it not work?
DL: Well, one of my greatest stories is, Bryan Loritts and JB. Him stepping down a role to put Bryan Loritts in position as lead in a place. And listening to Bryan Loritts, he was asked to join a place, a country club named after the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan [chuckle], the country club in Memphis by, was it Forrest… Bedford Forrest Country Club. Yeah, that place and for me, I was already just like, “Yeah! Forget the… ” And he was, “No, shut up dog. Relax. Let me explain to you.” And it was just so grace centered and so reconciliation-laden, I just felt a shame after how my heart went towards it. And so, some of the things I’ve seen work, that’s one from a church perspective.
DL: And I’ve also seen, personally for me… And I’ve heard of other things, worked with a guy down at Practical Bible College and they wrote a book called “Hope Grows in Winter” about racial reconciliation. His story of his despising his daughter for getting pregnant by this black dude who was… There’s only about three blacks in the whole Elmira, New York, and the one bum black dude out of the three got his daughter pregnant. They got pregnant together, I like to say that. And so he hated him and he was nasty towards his daughter in that.
DL: And he had been talking that racial reconciliation stuff before that and he says, man, the Lord just pounded on him. And it was the scriptures that unfolded and broke his heart down because the love he have for his grandson really broke him down. So, one time, when his grandson was four, this is what broke him down, he said, three white kids says to the little boy, I can’t remember his name but it’s in the book, it says, “I don’t have an invitation for you for my party because my mom says you’re black and you can’t come.” And Dr. Miller just broke down in tears and he had such a love and he embraced this new son-in-law and his new grandson. And he says the scriptures just came alive, rebuked him. He repented and the Lord began to revive and renew the reality of what he was.
DL: So, that’s in two external stories and an internal story for me is the hatred my mother-in-law had for me for so many years, despised me. And her brothers were of racist and to this day my grandfather-in-law, my wife’s grandfather, even as… I’ve been married 20 years, so even as early as last year, I was called a monkey and a nigger at Thanksgiving. And I gave him a pass. And so, to see my mother-in-law who called me nigger and coon and yard ape, now call me her pastor. Some eight years after, eight years of hostility. When I continue to pursue her with the gospel after her staunch hatred, dislike, no nice word to say about me. And then one day, man, she just said, “This is wrong. This is awful. I love you all. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m gonna give my life to the Lord. I’m gonna start going to church.” She’s been doing that for 10 years now, [laughter] 12 years now. And I’ve been her pastor.
DL: So those particularly, it was really epiphanies, like, “Pow!” all the stuff you’ve been saying about the gospel, it kicks in that’s why I talked about the Crock-Pot. It just punches in the face one day. And I’ve been saying all that stuff for eight years to her and then one day, she just says, “This is ridiculous.” Same thing happened with Dr. Miller. And those are two scenarios where there was deep hostility and then an unraveling grace and love and forgiveness that didn’t turn back. I think about my mother-in-law being a member of this church and it’s funny every time I see her on a Sunday morning knowing how we started.
DM: We talked about Dr. Miller reading scripture and the power of that. What would be some first verses you would send people to that are dealing with this?
DL: I’m the worst with addresses but be reconciled unto the Lord. You’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation. I would also go to a lot of the passages that include… For me, most people skip that, but the great commission is a commission about reconciliation, which is often ignored. That’s why I talk about the sociological impact, is go and make disciples of all nations, that nations would’ve been counterintuitive and countercultural to a Jew who was told that these gentiles, these other ethnoses are dirty dogs. So now he’s telling them, “With this gospel, the gospel of that, was brought to you by the prophets, the writings, and now from Jesus himself and made you apostles. You have to go to the nations that you formerly wouldn’t go to and take this good gospel to them.” And we know they had challenges with that, because they tried to make gentiles become Jewish first. But the idea of the great commission, front loaded in the great commission, is the revelation passages about every nation kindred and tongue. So when we think reconciliation, we go right to revelation, or we go to Paul.
DL: Now, we can go right to Matthew. We could go to the great commission, where he was sending them out into foreign places. We only see nations, from our American-ness, as black, white, Latino, Asian. Those are the variations we see. But the nations in that culture, and from that place and that point, would’ve been children-eating nations. Tattooed-all-over-the-face, worship a head of lettuce, nations. It would’ve been nations that had multiple barrier to get this gospel, language barriers, violent barriers, remote, out-of-zone, end-of-the-spear type thing barriers. And it would’ve been to cultures who had worshipped demons and idols and go in there, and not even know how to speak the language, and maybe mess around and get killed, because we want to see a reconciliation movement happen. And the only way to make it real is through coming under one banner. Only one name under heaven whereby men must be saved.
DL: So that’s one that I would jump to, and the other one would go to, which could be obscured too, is in Acts, when it says, “And that’s where they called them Christians,” where they first called them Christians. If you don’t pay attention to that, why? Some would say cause they were those of Christ. If you jump past the passage too much, it runs down the crazy diversity of people at the table: Scythian, Barbarians, all of these crazy people. Those people aren’t friends, they don’t speak the same language. They don’t like each other, some of those nations that were gathered in that room. But for some crazy reason, they didn’t know what to call them. Were they Barbarians? Nah, ’cause there were some Scythians in the rooms. Were they this? Nah, because there were other people at the table. So why were they all at the table? Because of Christ. So what were they all together for? This new family called People of Christ, Christians. That’s the only thing you can call a room full of people who used to hate each other, who are now family. That’s the picture of reconciliation, reconciliation should mess you up so much, you should have to invent words. Good words that define it. So Christian was birthed out of reconciliation. The word Christian itself, from a Semantic reality in Acts, was birthed out.
DL: And front-loaded into my Great Commission is reconciliation. That’s what makes it weird, when we have all this ridiculous divide and we’re Evangelicals. And it takes somebody liberal to embrace it, but the conservatives have a hard time, and we’re supposed to be the Bible guys. [laughter] But the liberals, they want everybody, and the conservatives, we don’t want nobody. And we’re supposed to get the Bible. So, yeah, those things are real, those passages are real for me. Again, but it comes at a real personal level. I jokingly call my kids “Halfricans.” So I’ve got three white sons, all born again by God’s grace, and there were issues in my own family that I could not get away with a theoretical idea of reconciliation. I had to figure out a way to walk that out by faith, and that was some of the hardest thing I ever did. You call me nigger and monkey, I just wanna punch you in your face. But I can’t do that, [chuckle] ’cause I’ll go to jail, first. Secondly, I’m gonna misrepresent Christ and push you further away from the gospel. So I’m forced to pray, I’m forced to fast, I’m forced to grow more intimate with God, so he can give me more fuel, more energy, to figure this out.
DL: And I fussed with God for many years, like, “God, I’m sick of my mother-in-law saying this. I’m sick of coming to Thanksgiving, and I’d walk in and people would walk out. I’m sick of this, God. I’m supposed to have a good Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a family week, God.” And God is like, “Get over yourself. Get over yourself. I got killed on Passover, shut up.” And so one of the sweetest days I remember, and it was, for me, somewhat anti-climatic was because I realized mission was the hard journey of reconciling with people who hate you, not with your cute friends only, but with people who hate you. So my mother-in-law came to faith, and we didn’t have a transitionary discussion. It was like she came to faith. We had no more problems. And I was like, “This is great.” But it wasn’t, “Ah! Finally, God, you finally answered.” No, because in my DNA, what happened with my mother-in-law, in my Christian DNA, that’s what happens. [laughter]
DL: That’s how God works. And so we celebrate that, but we look for millions more. And of course I’m in a denomination where less than 1% is African American. [chuckle] Pray for us. And I face significant challenges there. But I’ve had to figure it out, and walk out reconciliation and not sermonize and theologize it away, or turn it into some ethereal idea. But we’ve had to land on a ground, “I’m with it. Trust God,” and really embrace that reality. Or if not, I become suicidal or homicidal. [laughter]
DM: I don’t think I have ever thought about it before until you just said it. You know, God calls us to reconciliation. In this series, in this interview calls you to reconciliation. That reconciliation brings suffering to you and brings you into situations to where you have to be more dependent upon Him to respond in a Christ-like way than had you not been called to reconciliation. And so it actually forms in you a deeper faith and a greater Christ-like character. So it’s not just for the benefit of the relationship.
DM: It’s not just for the benefit of the other person. It’s for your own benefit.
DL: It’s sanctifying. Sanctifying, suffering in the form of reconciliation. I’m forced to the one who has already reconciled me. So if I don’t keep going back to God, He’s the God that has no issue. I’m reconciled. So my model is Him. So where do I spend most of my time after the crap is beat outta me by the person who calls me, “Nigger, monkey, and coon.” As I’m back to the Lord. And next thing you know I’m growing in a deeper dependency to God. And I’m growing in faith and in the knowledge of Christ, so when I go back, you know, you lift 300 pounds for two weeks, it’s not as heavy as it was two weeks ago.
DL: And so you keep doing that and it’s a suffering sanctifying reality. And your intimacy with God becomes ridiculous. It just keeps taking you to the cross. You land at… For me, it kept landing me at the cross, ’cause that’s what had to punch me in the face to turn me from, “Forget this!” And God would say, “Yeah? What about the cross? Your sins were forced into that metal spike in my arm. Yeah, and the dude told me why don’t I get down and save myself. But I stayed. So, this ain’t even as bad as that, Doug. You’re gonna stay. That’s what you’re gonna do, ’cause that’s who you are. You’re booby trapped into my Holy Ghost in you. It’s suffering for sanctifying. And do you know what happens when you suffer and sanctify? You’d be with me a lot. When you ain’t got no problems, Doug, you like to be out there.” [chuckle] You like to be preaching and convincing people how good you are. But when you getting kicked in the mouth, you stay at my feet. [chuckle]
DM: Which eventually becomes your greatest joy. Right? So your biggest pain, and your biggest burden and cross to bear ends up becoming your greatest strength.
DL: First Peter, “If you suffer, who cares?” [chuckle] The… Who cares? The what? If you’ve been with God, you could say that, but if you’ve ain’t been with God, if you suffer… You know, suffering, not suffering for God, is just pain. [chuckle] That’s just pain.
DM: Alright. Man, thank you for that. So it’s on pain. Talk about… Let’s move to your community, and your city, and your neighborhood. Pros and cons. What are the assets? What are the struggles?
DL: Well, that’s a great question. I never heard it like that. So it just blew me away when you said pros and cons. [chuckle] Well, about 78,000 people. 77, 78,000 people in the city. Predominately Latino, 51%. And a high number 42 to 45% African American. And then some other in there. We’re about 45% below the poverty line. Average median income is like $17,000 to a New Jersey, overall New Jersey per capita income $68,000. So we’re highly impoverished. Only about 44% out of those 78,000 have a high school diploma and the other 60 odd percent have less than ninth grade. Ninth grade or less. And so we have the highest illiteracy. We have the highest single-parent homes in America. And of course we’ve led in murder maybe 11 out of the past 20 years.
DL: We don’t make a lot of lists because we’re under 100,000. But when we had 70 murders that one year, 69 I think. Well first, the record breaking murder was right in front of the steps of the church we were renting. On a Saturday night before Sunday morning. Excuse me. But when you think of that number of 69 people killed in 78,000 people, if that was New York, it would be equivalent to 5,000 people murdered in one year. So it’s pretty pronounced and crazy. We have some of, questionably some would argue, some stats would argue, the worst public school system in New Jersey and in the top five in America. The highest drop out rate. The lowest graduation rate in the United States. So not a lot of pros. A lot of cons. But I think, for me, the city has great potential in that I know when I’m on my last leg I’m open. I had a friend who told me his… And it was a friend who told me about his friend who had cancer and who had tried everything.
DL: He was open for some experimental drugs from a good doctor. And, believe it or not, that stuff helped bring him out. And so when you’re in the place where Camden is, I think we’re open for more things that maybe haven’t been tried yet. But if they’re coming from some good folk, you’ll have no problem giving it a try. And so I think that we are somewhat of a resilient city. We’ve taken a lot of hits and yet we still have a lot of Camden faithfuls. I think we’re a forgiving city. The poor people in this city have been done dirty on a lot of levels. We’ve had mismanagement of funds. We’ve had mayors, more than… I think like two or three, leave office in handcuffs. We’ve been forgiving. We’ve been… We’ve had a stick-to-it-ness, we’ve had a commitment. And there’s been a lot of resilience, in that, a lot of key players did just jump up and bounce and leave from churches to organizations. Tons of things. And so I just think we’re on the brink of a breakthrough here. In my charismatic voice. And I’m just praying we have somebody that sees what I think we lack here, is a vision beyond the implementation of a program.
DL: When I come to the city, I have to look through Calvary’s lens at the city. If I look through Doug Logan’s glasses, then I’m going to go and see if JB is hiring in Memphis. [chuckle] In the nice section not the section where they’re trying to get to. Or I’ll go see Bill Wellings in Little Rock, he’s got to be hiring. But when I look through Calvary’s lens, we can see a dilapidated squatter house. And we can see the hardwood floors and the Corian countertops later. But it’s hard to see that in Camden because when we were redoing our house, we tore the whole house out. So I had 20 people demoing it, then after they demoed, they left. And we walked in and my wife, I’ll never forget, my wife just broke down crying. So every room was completely tore up. We didn’t have a whole lot of money. And she cried. I said, “Why’re you crying?” She says, “There’s so much. I don’t see us even having a… I don’t have enough energy to start because it’s so overwhelming.”
DL: So she just cried and walked out the door. And that’s what happens in Camden. And so I said, “Babe, I need you to have some Home Depot Extreme Makeover, Are you ready, move the bus vision! Not some, it’s such a mess vision, because that’s not a vision at all.” She said, “Okay, babe. Let me go home, drink me a glass of wine and I’m gonna try it again and pray, come back tomorrow.” And she plowed through with me and she continued to look at books of houses on Pinterest of the completed project and that gave her energy to come back and work to see this happen. And that’s what we need in Camden. And the breakdown of all those things, they just compound our lack of education which compounds our high concentration of poverty which concentrates our homelessness which concentrates our lack of… It pushes us to illegal activity. It pushes everything to the edges of awful. And it also pushes out the people we thought had some vision. [laughter] Because it becomes so overwhelming, they have a moment like my wife had. And so I’m just praying that, in the midst of all our cons that we find some folk that come in here and say, now we can do this. We talked about this earlier, and I’m gonna answer this ’cause I know I’m sweating out of control. Al Mohler went and took over Southern Seminary.
DL: Okay. One day we’re gonna have central air. [laughter] Al Mohler took over Southern Seminary. Southern Seminary had been on great decline from a theological perspective. Liberal and outside of the standard in which they sought, from theology, to Ecclesiology. All of that was, it was not functioning to the standard, to the idea in which the intended founders of Southern was. So Mohler comes in and [laughter], Mohler like, almost like a president comes in. He was the president, but like a United States President, clears house and rehires, makes them sign covenants and Southern was a mess. Southern was a mess! And in the process of him clearing house, he had death threats. He was deemed the antichrist. He was hated. I think his car was graffitied and windows broke. He was absolutely despised. He sat through, and I’m so mindful of the cross, he sat through and bore his cross, took that good whooping.
DL: Now, Southern, the football players say, The University of Miami. Now when you say Southern, they say, “The Southern Seminary,” largest seminary in the world. But he saw the mess and he saw with new eyes how it could be and he stayed through all the shame, the troubles, the trials and he fought towards triumph. But he had to take a whooping. He had to have a Crock-Pot vision ’cause if he had a frying pain, vision he would have burnt him… He would have been burnt on the outside, raw on the inside, but he just endured and now Southern is what it is. Coach K from Duke, same story. Hated by everybody and look, one of the best, winningest coaches in the history of all basketball. I’m praying that we get some leaders like that in Camden.
DM: You know one of the things you’re speaking to is just the idea of reconciliation is a… It’s a long-term investment. It takes a great deal of time, right? It’s not gonna be something that happens overnight.
DL: I hope that answered the question from Camden.
DM: Yes, very helpful. You touched on this at the very beginning. And so, why do you think it’s like that?
DL: Well, I think it comes from a broken system that constantly gets patched, but never actually repaired or… So 2.0, 3.0, Camden’s 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, we’re not jumping 2.0. We’re not advancing because the base system was a broken system. I grew up watching, you know Bugs Bunny, one of my favorites. Well, when the wall would break, the dam would break, he would put one finger there and it would stop the water then it would break again and then before long his whole body was patching up all the holes till finally the water just caved the whole wall in. He ran out of hands to stop the breach because he needed to just get out the way, let the wall break and put up a better wall, recognizing that wall could not withstand the force. The force of that water and that wall… The engineer that made that wall, he gave you a faulty system. Let’s get rid of it and put the right one up.
DM: And what do you think of as the faulty system?
DL: Well I think the faulty… It’s been availability in leadership and sometimes not qualified leadership. If you can’t get someone to hire in Camden to be a comprehensive, visionary leader… You’ve got to take who will come and if you take just who will come, that doesn’t mean he’s suited for this job or he has any commitments to this job. So we need somebody that’s gonna connect, not be a mercenary. So we’ve hired so many mercenaries and the base system was always a second-class system. It was never equal to the white schools in Cherry Hill and Haddonfield because there was no… Because that was priority. The urban schools were designed to shut up black people who complained, so give them something. And so the something they gave was always subpar and so now all we’ve done is patch up the subpar. Let the wall break. Let’s re-envision this and set it up, not to match white people, but to match the standard. Because once we get approval and monies to match the white system, we get their 2.0 approval. They’re at 3.5. And so we’re always chasing an antiquated system, much like the purchase of encyclopedias. Soon as you purchase them, they’re already behind and antiquated once you get ’em.
DL: And so, that system has perpetuated and perpetuated. And so, we’ve brought new, good people in and they worked with what they were handed. I just want somebody to say, “What we were handed was crap, let’s get rid of it. Let’s get a whiteboard and let’s put on here what’s gonna be most conducive to growth, community impact, life impact. Not to just chase the white school district’s swag, but to best culturally engage the educational issues and impact on our community.” And so, we now cater to the reality of the community, not trying to be equal. That can make us even more advanced. And, I think, at this point, somebody’s gotta say, “We’re working with a broken system, we’re not gonna keep cutting and pasting. We’re gonna ball this up, get a new piece of paper and start fresh.”
DL: And nobody’s willing to say that because there’s nobody who thinks they have support to say that without being fired or that it will ever happen. Again, a lack of vision for a new day. We gotta have an extreme makeover, not a… There’s another TV show on HDTV and it’s the lady Niecy, and she comes in and she cleans up two rooms. Now, we don’t need two rooms cleaned up. The other dude from Extreme Makeover, he comes and he tears down every wall, and he redoes it. But, if you ain’t got nothing, when Niecy comes to do two rooms, you’ll take it. And so, we just gotta have a comprehensive understanding of the systemically broken system and tear it down. And then, we need some brilliant people, who are committed here… Not mercenaries, not minimum coverage servants. We need some people that say, “Man, we can do this”. People who come in and… Memphis has a level of gentrification taking place. Somebody came and then looked at that messed up neighborhood and said, “We can do something with this”. [laughter] We need somebody to have a long-term vision that can happen.
DM: We began… In the very beginning, we talked about reconciliation, and now we’re talking about education. What do you see as a correlation between the difference in academic achievement between minority children in poverty and wealthier peers? The correlation between that academic achievement gap and this idea of reconciliation, people living together with piece and dignity?
DL: Yeah, I see a value system, another historic value system of poverty, lack of a million things, that becomes now the foundation and the basis for a lot of African-American, Latino communities. So, yeah, we’re free. [chuckle] And we got a 400 year head start. And, so, we come into a broken down system and we’ve gotta work with it. And so, one of the reasons why it hasn’t killer advanced, is because those people were uneducated and they didn’t have a value of education and advancement. They had an idea of survival. And so, survivalists don’t teach “Go to this island and make a house.” They teach “Go to this island and find some good drinking water and build a raft.” And so, if you have that philosophy of survivor in these impoverished neighborhoods, which I believe they do, then nobody’s gonna value the long-term implications of education, they’re trying to eat tomorrow.
DL: They’re trying to do enough not to get out tomorrow. So, the value is survival, not education. However, my white bros, they’ve had a value of education, been celebrated, been set up to win. My good friend Phil Ryken, used to be the former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church… I sat down with him about education and they helped me go to Westminster for a semester or two. And he said: “What’s the problem with African-Americans’ theologic education?” I said: “Phil, you were set up to win. Your father’s a PhD, his father was a PhD, y’all got a lot of money, you got a B on your exam and they went and bought ice-cream for you. You came home on honor roll, and they put on the front lawn, ‘Our son on the honor roll.’ Your whole life has been a celebration and a value of education and a movement, and your whole life has been intrinsically involved in the celebration of achievement that, encapsulated in your childhood, is advancement in education. You’ve never had to worry about being shot and killed on your block. You’ve never had to worry if you were gonna eat. That’s just not what you… “
DL: So, I said: “Phil, you were set up to win,” and he says, “I guess I was.” I says, “Well, my father left third grade, he was very abusive. He told me, ‘You don’t need no education, boy. You’re gonna drive trucks just like me. And I took the oral exam, ’cause I can’t read to get my CDLs, and you’re going to just do that. Hell with that education. Them dumb boys, they got all that education, and I make more money than them.'”
DL: Our lights got cut off. He went and hustled, from fixing cars, to moonshine. The lights got back on. No education, he hustled, and made it work. I had no value system of education. I did not. That was not celebrated; I was not setup to win. I was setup to survive. And so now we have a broken system, that’s been broken from the foundation, ’cause it was a bone thrown at complaining, at black folk. So the system is bad, and the value system that even pushes, that even gives you value for this idea, not the system, but for this idea, doesn’t exist. In front of my house, me and Charlie lived next door to each other. Little boy was out there cutting up, little bit, and mom was looking for him. He said, “Mom, I was with my friends.” She said, “Mother-eff-er! I’ll eff you the eff up! I’m about to beat the eff-‘n.”
DL: Boy was eleven. “I’ll bah bah bah bah bah!” She clearly doesn’t have a value system that encompasses proper parenting. And so, I would venture to say, she’s probably not promoting getting a PhD to this little boy. If she gave him no less than eleven “m-eff-ers.” And then punched him in his chest, when he shrugged his shoulder. So now we have a broken system. So even if you had a value system to go to it, you’re still behind the eight-ball. But now you have no value system to go to it. You have a value system of survival. And that value system of survival says education is bad. And now, you still have survival. So survival becomes the impetus of your existence. And you do that by any means necessary. That’s why I have a college graduate that still sells drugs. [chuckle] There’s no value to that degree. The value is still survival, even with a degree. [chuckle] You have a means to earn.
DL: That’s completely separated from survival. They don’t connect those. And we’ve gotta figure out a way to make sure that that degree is celebrated. Anthony Bradley has a stat on his webpage, and it says [chuckle], 100% of the people he interviewed that were in college and in post-graduate studies, had a level… Not saved, activity in church, and were celebrated by their church and encouraged at their church. With multiple… I call them bootleg graduations, and achievements.
DL: I grew up, you graduated from high school. That was like the college degree. But nowadays, you graduate from Pre-K. You graduate from kindergarten. You graduate from elementary. You graduate from junior high. Then you graduate from high school. And at the church, when there’s encouragement and advancement and celebration and the rallying of that… 100% of the kids he interviewed, that were in post-graduate, said they had it. And almost 100% of the kids who didn’t go, didn’t have that. That’s bananas to me! So the church, I’m not even talking… So those who had active participation in church, that don’t mean they even Christians, and was celebrated by the church and pushed in achievement, 100% of ’em went to college. That says so much. Says so much. Celebration of that. My mother celebrated me, and that’s why I went on to college. I didn’t graduate because I didn’t… I had a “pleasing of my mother” value for college, but not an authentic… It didn’t match my survival idea. So my survival idea was, I owned a barber shop; because the only two black people in the hood that wear shoes to work, is the preacher and the barber. And so, of course, I was a barber for twelve years, and I got saved at the barber shop, and now I’m a pastor. ‘Cause my mother said, “You gonna work with your brain or you’re gonna work with your back, and your back is weak.” And so…
DL: Therefore, I had a value system of education and intelligence over and against education. So I liked education. I thought it was cool, but I didn’t high-value it so much. But I did have an honor to honor my mother, who wanted me to go to college, so I went for two years. But I was demotivated. I wasn’t very motivated there, because my mother was in heaven, and she wasn’t gonna get mad if I quit. And so… [chuckle] And it was pushed, but it wasn’t a big deal when my father was alive, and he could’ve cared less, if I went or not. He never discouraged me hardcore, but he didn’t care. He drove trucks and made a lot of money. He just told me, “Get your CDLs boy!” I’m sorry for that long one.
DM: No, no, no. One takeaway is the opportunity for the church to celebrate achievement in education, as a ministry of the church. Alright, let me ask about this ’cause I think about this, I don’t know that I’m right about it and I’d love your take on it. So, in Memphis at least, it’s a very segregated city and one of my thoughts has been…
DL: Imma bullet those real quick. At a later age, Dr. Eric Mason helped me with this, there’s a difference between academia and intelligence. In my flesh, and you can make sure you fix that in the thing, I think I’m smart or smarter than white dudes with degrees. I’ve had to survive in nasty conditions and I had to be a thinker in intense, violent, drug ridden, impoverished, violent zones, and I think I’m pretty intelligent. I did graduate high school and I did get accepted into college, and I am accepted into a master’s program even right now. So, I know there’s a difference between intelligence and academia, so when my white bros match academia and intellect as the same, I think that’s weird. I had to get over myself so my insecurity was I didn’t have a degree to validate my intelligence.
DL: So that was one difference in that marginalization. The second thing is, when I think about the dropout rate and the shame that comes with it, what you begin to do in your insecurity, you begin to overcompensate. This is a bad example so you’ll fix it up for me. My sister, I have five sisters, One of them is very overweight so she just makes fat jokes about herself all the time. So she celebrates her overweight-ness. She’s overweight to the point of diabetes and things like that, and I’m like “This is not funny. When you’re talking a little bit of extra on your belt, you’re creating a health problem, so let’s not make fun of that, let’s deal with it.” So I think that there’s people who make fun of their lack of education, that they’re trying to… Instead of dealing with it, they’re trying to push it under the rug. And so… I forgot that phone. I’ll wait for him to grab it and stop it.
Speaker 3: You got black _________ too. You know, they only come to the hood for hair and shoes, for hair and church, they don’t come to deal with black folk though. Once they’ve achieved something. They get a level of achievement, and they’re out.
DL: Okay. Yeah. Right, right. Amen. So their level of achievement pushes them out to Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Sicklerville, and so therefore, they don’t have to discuss their lack of education. Their achievement compensates for their lack of education, so that’s how you avoid the shame. You go buy a big house in the suburbs, so that you can hide amongst the intellectuals who have money and degrees that make money to buy a house in the suburbs. You go buy a house in the suburbs, and now there’s a level of assumption that you are something that you’re not. So you don’t ever have to necessarily fully address that, and if you have to address it you can say: “You went to college, I didn’t, I got the same house you got.” So that’s the avoidance piece and the celebration piece, I talked about my sister. Kanye West, one of the premiere platinum artists, I’m not a fan, but his whole album rendition is college dropout. That’s the name of it. Is it called College Dropout? And another album is Late Registration? So he’s celebrating how rich he is and how brilliant he is that he’s a college dropout. So what’s almost celebrated now is the anti-college, anti-intellectual deal. So now you create you a new category to deal with the shame and push you further away from reconciliation. [chuckle]
DL: ‘Cause all these are avoidance of the authentic confrontation, and this is apropo with the gospel. We want to theologize and sermonize away reality so we don’t have to actually deal with it. We move the sociological and psychological implications from the gospel for doctrine. We have a discussion about a confederate flag and then you have people arguing sociological, psychological, and theological. And they don’t mesh those together ’cause each camp wants to be in their camp where they’re most comfortable to avoid actually being friends and reconciling. And that’s happened so often in an urban context.
DL: That’s how that shame never gets dealt with and it perpetuates another generation of decline, and now instead of just dealing, what my parents did, they fought against decadence so that their kids could go to college. Now you become celebrants of decadence, in the midst now it becomes the new normal which perpetuates on your next generation to avoid and be anti-education, which is ridiculous! Somebody’s got to step up and say stop the madness. That I told you about with the church. The church has to step in and call us to reconciliation and that can’t be only on black history month. We’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation so it needs to be constantly interwoven into what we do. And then we need to not super spiritualize it, just saying, with our enemies, but with people of other races that we refuse to encounter and refuse to engage. So reconciliation, now meshes us together, forces us to deal with our issues, and gives me the freedom now to say I know that…
DL: How to train your dragon. He’s not allowed to handle dragons, and at the detriment of being kicked out of the tribe, he was doing it undercover, training his dragon. Found out that when he got the dragons, they became friends and they had a whole season of peace, when the father who had ostracized the son. Hated his son for dealing with these dragons. They messed around and they became one whole tribe. The one dude found value in the dragons and it changed the whole tribe. We gotta find somebody that’s willing to step in and get beaten down for a season, and say, “I know historically we haven’t had value in this, but I find value in it.” And be hated and told, “Well, you can get out.” And hopefully, a reconcile in reality will come because he’ll model it, and move people towards it. And I believe that’s the church’s role.
DL: One of the churches big role is to lead community in reconciliation to model forgiveness, to model access to love in one another, to model differences without division, to model that. And then to open up the door to say what I was told, “As a black person, you can be whatever you want.” That’s what my mother and father told me. You can be any. You could be president. My father cried the day Obama was brought in and he wasn’t a big fan of Obama. But my father said, “Obama can mess the country up as good as any white man.” [chuckle] And to see that, that level of achievement said where a lot of people said it will never happen, somebody stepped up and it happened.
DM: When you speak and preach this, how’s that perceived here?
DL: Oh, it gets received well here by God’s grace, but we’ve had that intertwined into everything we’ve done. That’s a beauty of a church plant. I’m not coming to fight no old demons. I’ve got people here, two generations never been in a church. You have to tell them, “When ya’ll be doing that? What is that?” That’s what they ask us. And when I do this, and do that, and what is… And they don’t know what to call it a sermon. They say, “When you do your talking thing, when you get loud.” That’s how un-churched we are. When we lay that stuff they’re like, “Okay. Well, if I’m a Christian and this is what the pastor is leading those in and he’s telling us this from the Bible, well, this is what it is.” Some of my two generations have never been to church that are in the church now. They would be asking you right now, “Why is this even a big deal?” [laughter] That’s how oblivious they are to the other ideas in some ways.
DM: Just that one thought, comment I have when you’re talking about, it reminds me of another King comment where he said, “Legislation can proclaim… “
DL: Especially, specifically to Camden. There’s also not… We would argue on money. When I talk about a broken system, I’m not necessarily saying money. Camden’s had more money thrown at its school system than Cherry Hill, but we have non-visionaries handling that money. And poor stewardship of $1 Million when you’re broke, will make you homeless [chuckle] in six months. And I wanna make clear that it’s not because of a lack of money. It’s because of, I think a lack of vision, a lack of stewardship, and a lack of ownership of the brokenness of this city. It takes ownership and I believe that comes primarily through the gospel. Go and make disciples of the nation, ’cause he’s given a command to do something, and he’s given a promise of him with you. And he’s given you the hope of the ultimate result. But if you just come in here to do a task, then you just spin money like computer-generated receipts. It’s just you automatically send it and it doesn’t come with vision.
DM: Alright, let me ask you about this, ’cause in our program, and other around Christians, you get teachers that are coming into the school, they’re black, they’re white, Hispanic, and what value is it in the umbrella of reconciliation for a white middle-class dude to be in there teaching kids from the hood. How do you speak a word of encouragement to people that are either from the same minority set, or not from the same minority set?
DL: Well, from an American perspective it puts wheels on the reality of the Constitution, Bill of Rights. [chuckle] It puts wheels on those things as more than ideas floating in the air. When we ratify those things in our country they should not remain ethereal. They should have… They should be brought to fruition in tangible ways. And some of the biggest examples of that is to actually see it. And not just talk about it. That’s not even… A deep thought for me is, when a middle-class white dude comes and teaches, and doesn’t come as the Messiah to Camden to teach. And then an African-American kid comes, not as Messiah, to teach. And they work together to engage the children of the context they’re working with to make them the best they can be, it shows forth to them that on every level there can be unity where there was hostility. And at every level… On a practical level, they’ll see the system works. And they won’t say, “I ain’t going to that, ’cause all I’m a do is wind up only teaching at a black school.” And boom. Or then the white guy may say, “I’m never gonna teach at one of those schools ’cause it’s so hostile.” But when they’re both at that same urban school, or they’re both at that same white school, the kid from the hood with the education and the white kid from middle-class, and then vice-versa, it tells both groups in a broken world the system in place on paper can actually be brought to fruition.
DL: And it also, I think, gives them license to love white people who maybe they’ve been taught at home through TV to hate. And it just tears down this invisible divide that exists out of propaganda. Some real, don’t get me wrong, there’s racism and all that. But a lot of the separation we have for one another it’s not very hostile as much as it’s goofy. All these ideas, “What’s wrong with you? I’m automatically gonna stay away from you.” I watched yesterday, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and that whole movie’s challenge was conjecture of who a person actually is. [chuckle] Pure stereotypes. Pure conjecture. And that conjecture becomes DNA to your psyche, and it flushes out sociologically and how you handle things. And then you look through the lens of the psychological, sociological lens to see the gospel. Which now’s, [chuckle] reconciliation now gets clouded as not some radical requirement, but as a one day hope like a yacht maybe we’d own. Reconciliation is not a yacht, it’s breath. You can’t live without it and you call yourself a Christian. It’s not a yacht that we hope for one day if we hit the lottery. And when they see those two teachers teaching there, they realize reconciliation is not a yacht but it’s as simple as a phone.
DM: You’re saying both… If I’m a Hispanic or African-American Camden kid, and I see a white middle-class teacher. Number one, assuming I have a positive relationship with that teacher. In our case, it’s a Christian teacher who’s calm, who’s prepared, and who’s gonna do what you hope a teacher would do in a classroom. The student says, “I have all these negative stereotypes of white people. Now, I have a white teacher who loves me and is for me. And now reconciliation can happen. Because it begins to break down stereotypes. And now I have a relationship as opposed to stereotype.”
DM: And if I’m a minority child in Camden, and I have an African-American teacher from the hood who’s in my classroom. Now I’m able to say, “This teacher understands me better, can relate to me better. And I have a vision for what I can do with my life after school, after college. I’ve got a vision for a hope.” And then I think I heard you saying both of those things.
DM: But then, I think, what you also said is, “When I see that white teacher and that black teacher working together on a team as friends and associates and enjoying one another, I see actual reconciliation happening in… I have a vision for it now because my white teacher and my black teacher are getting along with one another.”
DM: And that has value.
DL: Absolutely. Especially at a public level. At a public level, at a private level, at a personal level. All those… That changes things. That makes you… Yeah. That changes everything.
DM: Alright. I got one other big topic I need to hear from you.
DL: Cool, cool. Well, we have to define the comprehensive reality of the gospel. The gospel is not… Corinthians tells us, “The kingdom of God is not just words, but actions.” And my Christianity isn’t hinged on my theological swag of my communication. And this isn’t a fair comparison, but Isaiah tells us that the Messiah was gonna be silent before his shearers. And that wasn’t passivity, that was redemptive activity. And our redemptive activity flows out of our willingness to work in a broken system, to be a light in a dark place. And that doesn’t always require you running your mouth.
DL: Sometimes you have to go to the bathroom and bend your knees in the stall and spend your time running your mouth to God, and less to humans. And because we think only our verbal communication and sharing our faith is the means by which God works. Now, He works through prayer that you can do with your mouth closed and your eyes open while Billy is answering your math question. And we have to recognize Christianity is a marathon race that we have to pace for. And Christianity is not celebrated in our liberty, but in our obedience to trust the Living Savior. And we have liberty without a question but that doesn’t… My liberty doesn’t define me, my Savior defines me. And my Savior was silent before his shearers and he did the greatest work of redemption while he was silent and being beaten. And yet God was actively at work, redeeming a world on to himself in the silence of God.
DL: From the third to ninth hour, there was a silence, a darkness and God was active at work. We just gotta wait. Three days later, there was another big pocket of silence and then he rose from the grave. Was there activity while I didn’t exercise running my mouth? Yes. Is God at work when my mouth is shut? I like to believe when I fall asleep that God doesn’t wait for me to wake up. [laughter] Before he does something again. And the other thing is… Yeah, just think about it and if we go minor Prophets, man, those dudes were… Daniel didn’t run his mouth all day talking to the Prime Minister of the enemy. Telling as a Prime Minister talking to the King about how good his God was. They defeated the people of God. In the Ancient Near East Time, if you defeat the people, you defeated their God.
DL: Daniel wasn’t all up in, “Yo! Our God is the best! Your God lost!” But when Daniel was pushed and pressed by God, at a moment, he was willing to put his life on the line for it. But that wasn’t Daniel’s daily operation to go against the King with his Torah jargon. But was God at work in Daniel? I know so. [chuckle] I know he was. ‘Cause we have a hoping, and Daniel never came out of captivity. But was he active in his exile? Yes! Was he flaunting his liberties in his exile? No! And those who flaunted liberties, didn’t flaunt liberties, but stood on it. Shadrach, Meshach, and I’m gonna jokingly say a bad Negro, go into this fire and they’re willing to put everything on the line. Even to death.
DL: But we say we won’t put everything on the line ’cause I can’t share my faith. We wanna get a lawyer [chuckle] and sue for [chuckle] for unlawful termination. Often that’s just disingenuous, that’s a flaunt of liberty. And we are not defined by liberty, we’re defined by our Savior. And many a prophet in silence, spoke loud in the name of God, to the people of God, and God was at work in the silence.
DM: That’s so good, that’s so good. Alright. One comment I give to my teachers from time to time would be that we’re charged to communicate the gospel in word and in deed. There’s a church on the corner right there. There are people there that are paid to communicate the gospel in word. The church is communicating the gospel in word, and communicating the gospel in deed. It’s just happening by… Nate Kirsch an Algebra classroom and it’s happening by Kelechi Ordu at Streets Ministry, and the church is doing the whole thing. Just calm down, you don’t have to do everything all the time.
DM: Do you buy that?
DL: I buy that. I buy that. And most levels is we’re a family and a team. And families have people who make different contributions. Sometimes we’re all generalists and sometimes we’re specialists. Sometimes as father, I live in Camden. If I hear a noise in my yard, I’m not telling my wife to throw her robe on and go out and check. I’m putting myself in harms way. But I’m telling her to have the phone ready so when I yell up here you dial 911. And we have to play these roles. And again, we gotta think in the totally of eternity. We gotta think stop thinking so situational. And if we’re in this for the long haul to impact… I got three grandkids. If I’m gonna impact my grandkids. Grand kids, I’ve gotta run this race at a pace that has comprehensive impact because the gospel’s always a multigenerational view. And everybody has to play their role.
DL: In the hood, we say “You doing too much”. You know a lot of Christians just be doing too much, you doing too much. And there’s not a lot of people who are “do-it-alls”. You know I think about Magic Johnson, first 6’9″ point guard, he played center forward and point guard. That’s amazing to me. Ain’t that many Magic Johnsons though. [laughter] So everybody thinks that they are do-it-all, and they’re not. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar never tried to play guard, still one of the greatest players ever. Period. He played his role. He paced himself. Had a long, long, long career and he impacted multiple generations. And these other guys go in there… I remember baby Jordan, I forgot his name, he is from USC, Al Miner. He went in there fast and dunking on everybody, first year and a half, messed up one knee, messed up one arm, he’s out of the league. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just doing skyhooks for 20 years [laughter], just lasted 20. And so we just gotta pace ourselves and when we talk about word and deed, that flip flops all the time. So sometimes your heavy word, sometimes I’m heavy deed, sometimes I’m heavy deed and you’re heavy word. But if it’s a comprehensive family punch. Bro, all the food networks got families working in there. Sometimes they cook, sometimes they waitress. That doesn’t make their cooking skills diminish in their waitress skills and vice versa.
DL: But if we’re looking at multi-generations, you are gonna have to learn so much. You’re gonna have to be a generalist, so heavy and at the same time you gonna have a speciality, I just believe that whole heartedly and I am seeing that more and more with all these conversations of reconciliation with education. Man, people, I mean, degrees are getting so much more broad because they are stretching out. I remember I went to North Carolina A&T, Dr. Singh, one of my professors in political science, I wanted to be Jesse Jackson. So, Jesse Jackson went to North Carolina A&T and he majored in political science. So when at nine years old he became the pastor I saw him, and I said, “Mom, I wanna got to the same school and do whatever he does.” He says, “Well, he’s a preacher and he went to a school in North Carolina.” And I am a preacher, and I went to North Carolina A&T to be Jesse Jackson. So for me, and I lost my train of thought, get me back Charlie.
Charlie: I can’t tell what you are thinking.
DL: But the word indeed peace.
DL: And so going there to be something, Dr. Fongwin, not Dr. Fongwin, Dr. Singh said, “So why do wanna be a political science major?” I said, “Cause you can do so many things with it. I could be a political analyst.” My goal was to run for governor of New Jersey and then start by going to the SPI and then run for governor of New Jersey. And he says, “Don’t be so broad that you don’t got anywhere to go” And now, so then everybody in my time was a specialty degree that was case specific to major a specialist. Now we are stretching ’em out more and more. Some of these degrees are making you a multi-shooter you know what I mean, with a speciality and I think as reconcilers, racial reconcilers and good Christians, and Americans, we have to expand our view of our role in seeing racial reconciliation take place, and educational overhaul take place. It can’t be, “Well, I’m gonna do my role cause I’m just gonna teach,” Nah, we are gonna have to do a lot more but at the same time you gotta do your speciality as well. So it’s just, it’s not every hat but you gotta wear more than one.
Speaker 4: You ticked off all the boxes. So I think the urban education matters question.
DM: Alright. Yeah, just to close one question would be, what’s gets you excited about this book idea. What value do you see from a conversation like this in print?
DL: Well, again our white brothers in dominant culture, sometimes best hear it from a non-angry black dude, and to hear it from a white brother will help them to highlight that it’s not just me arguing this but it’s white people arguing it too. You know, Martin Luther King talked about the march on Washington was a ridiculous spectacle of a shameful thing that we shouldn’t have to march on. [laughter] So, he’s highlighting it as a march, saying this is ridiculous. The fact that we are marching should bring you to the reality that there is a problem and we shouldn’t have to march for something you have already promised. And so you highlighting this, highlights that there’s a need, and things aren’t okay. And the absence of hostility isn’t the presence of peace. And so, the opportunity for African Americans to go to schools and all that stuff, doesn’t necessarily qualify as a system being fixed. So we need renewal, we need the system to be rectified and I think this book is gonna zoom them into a white dude saying it. A white dude with a, “What do you have, a Masters, PhD?”
DM: Just undergrad.
DL: [chuckle] A white dude with education. He is saying there is a problem and it doesn’t necessarily hinder him from his, if he wanted to go for another degree. But he’s saying it’s an American problem, it’s a church problem, it’s a human problem, and it’s gotta be tackled on all levels from that. So yeah, that’s what I think your book does. And as every book does, book are written in the gaps of issues, to highlight that issue to bring some action to it. And so, if everybody writes the same book then nobody’s gonna buy it. So books are written for a problem.
DM: I’m gonna give you a second to think about it. One sentence to answer the question.
DL: What did we say, Charlie?
Charlie: Urban education matters because people matter. People need to know.
DL: From a book standpoint… You can record it. But for me, the book standpoint, it highlights the fact that someone other than African-American thinks it matters. It knows it matters statistically and philosophically. I guess for me and my one sentence, urban education matters because for America… It’s gonna be a longer sentence, but work with me… You’ll sugar, sugar. You’ll sugar, sugar. We’re only as strong as our weakest link as a society. And if we ignore the weakness of our urban education, then the strong suits of our dominant culture, they don’t grow either. So white education is not growing. It’s growing, but it’s not maximizing. Because there’s a low value here, because I think some white dudes need to be taught, but the teachers that could teach ’em haven’t been told they should go to college yet. So I think some of our greatest educators can’t read right now. And so, urban education matters because the success of it goes towards the comprehensive success of education comprehensively. That’s Jeremiah 29. Pray for the welfare of the city, ’cause when that city’s functions in Shalom comprehensive wholeness…
DL: When you function in comprehensive wholeness so does the city. So when the urban education doesn’t function… Urban education is gonna bless the whole city. When it doesn’t, it hinders the whole city. So that’s the philosophy, so goes education. It brings down the comprehensive pitch of education, but there’s some black teachers, Latino teachers, ready, whose mother’s in jail, whose father is abusive, who have no value of education. And if we can some way get them out of a broken system into a cleaner system, they’re brilliant people walking around the hood. And they are gonna mess around and be PhDs. And they’re gonna be whites that are gonna say, “I didn’t know this but one of my professor’s an African-American who taught me, and it changed my life!” So we need more of those moments, but they’re much like as a pastor, some of my deacons are still drug dealers right now. They’re not even saved. I’ve never met ’em, but by God’s grace I’m gonna meet ’em. And God is gonna invade their darkness. They’re not there yet, but when they get there, they’re gonna make Epiphany Fellowship Church better.
DM: That’s good. Name of your favorite teacher?
DL: Ha! Ms. Woolfolk.
DM: Great. Why is she your favorite?
DL: She told me I was gonna be great. And she continued, any little thing I did. From the first day she told me I was gonna be great. She continue to tell me the pieces of it why. Like she says, “Boy… ” She know my mother, my mother’s name Tully, so she said, “Boy, you’re gonna be great. I don’t know exactly what you’re gonna do. I think you gonna be a lawyer.” Or I think I got politician from her, “You’re gonna be like the governor, no the mayor. You gonna be great.” And so, I remember one day I was helping her put pictures up on the wall. And my sister had taught me how to take the scotch tape, roll it around my finger and then break it off and do like that. She said, “See that’s why you gonna be great, ’cause you got ingenuity.” And then one day I came in and I helped fix one of the boy’s ties, ’cause he didn’t know how to tie a tie. And he said, “See you got compassion.” I didn’t even know what compassion meant. And she would say things like that to continue to perpetuate, to the point where I was convinced I was gonna be great, because I wrapped tape around a thing.
DL: And so she constantly told me that. I went to the school. Now you gotta remember Ms. Woolfolk was my teacher in 1975. I went last year to School 13 in Patterson, New Jersey, where I was born and raised. And I walked in the school. And the lady said, “Ain’t you Tully’s son?” Now this is 2014, to make that clear. And I looked at her like she was a nut. And I said, “Yes. Are you a cousin of mine?” She said, “No. I grew up with you.” And then one of the young teachers was still there. And she walked out. And she said, “Baby Douglas.” I said, “Yes.” And she told me her name. I didn’t even know her name. How do you even know me? How can you recognize me? I was five! I ain’t been here since I was five! Well, maybe I went to six grade there so, I left. She says, “Well, gimme your number. If we have a reunion thing I wanna call you and send you an email.” I said, “Cool.”
DL: I leave Patterson and get on the turnpike to come back here. On the parkway first, of course. I’m not on the parkway good, and Mrs. Woolfolk calls me and said, “You. I got a text message with a picture of your card. I told you, you were going to be great.” How do you remember that from 75, to the point where you’re compelled to call me after I left the school less then seven minutes later? She calls Mrs. Woolfolk, who’s in Maryland dying from cancer. Ms. Woolfolk gets on the phone after they send the text message that I was a preacher and sends a text message back. She goes online and Googles and sees I’m doing my master’s for reform theological seminary. And she calls me and says, “I have been praying for you since 1975 ’cause I knew you were going to be great.” It’s my favorite teacher. [laughter]
DM: Alright. One last thing I wrote down here is, is there anything that I should ask you?
DL: It’s good, if you would expand to… Not expand to, because that’s not your book. But thoughts of secondary education, just in the church. And how that impacts how we think about education in the hood.
DM: For example?
DL: We have lot of churches in Camden. The guys are almost illiterate. Or they have a minimal knowledge of theology, because they don’t have access to an education stream to learn that stuff. Because of poverty, lack of value. And so, we have so many bootleg ideas of theology, that are very nice guys, but very uninformed theologically because of resources and access to education. Now a guy like me comes and I have access. Charlie Mitchell has access. Ernest Grant have access. Reformed Theological Seminary gave all of us free scholarships. Charlie goes to another one. And now people say, “You preach different. And how come pastors don’t think like you?” Automatically there becomes a degrade of black pastors, who some of them are just bad and ridiculous, and other ones just lack like I did. Lack education. Lack opportunity. But love God and trying to do the very best with what we’ve got. The educational piece, the reconciliation piece, comes out in my understanding of reconciliation from a theological rich tradition of reform theology, RTS. And I got pastor friends. I went to Tenth Presbyterian Church. And I was their guy and they made sure they sent another 2,000 out in the hallway. If I had, they made sure I got free seminary to make sure I was equipped for the hood and…
Charlie: And that’s institutional reconciliation.
DL: Yeah, the institutional reconciliation. So we’ve got to a find the way that…
Charlie: Yeah. What you’re trying to rectify. There’s ramifications all the way up to…
DL: Absolutely. So that’s all.
Charlie: They get saying, “Love Jesus.”, but they still don’t know how to read.
DL: They don’t know how to read. And so when you do a Bible study here, you gotta walk over to help people. You tell people Philippians. You got to walk over and flip to Philippians for them. And then you have bad theology of… I’m gonna say this, then I promise I’m gonna shut up. My mother died in 1983. Reverend Robinson was 85 years old. That makes him born in 1800s. His father had him when he was 20. His father lived to be 80. That moves him back in to late 80s, 1880s. That’s him, his father. His grandfather was a slave. We beat the toast out of him in our reform faith now, because he doesn’t use words like pneumatology, eschatology and ecclesiology. And young black preachers can be a little loose with their mouth and dog him for being theologically unfit. I’m amazed that he is alive, growing up in Mississippi and not knowing really how to read. How he’s a Christian that loves God and led my mother without ever using eschatology, ecclesiology, pneumatology… To the Lord, and my mother as a benefactor. Why? Cause she’s in heaven right now cause he led her to Jesus. With a third generation, two generations post slavery.
DL: Two things is, I wanna help that preacher get educated, but I wanna good return on that education, because I want the school to make sure they teach a value system that honors that second generation slave, and not creates this condescension too. I just think there’s gonna be a reckoning of this education stuff because people gonna want a return on their investment. So are we treating people like flash drives, or are we transforming people into productive citizens with a comprehensive education? And the one thing that you might wanna consider is education/trade. ‘Cause that’s a big deal in the hood is… I went to barber school, my son went to barber school, and contractor school and earning. So his contribution against poverty and training, he’s in position now to put his kids in college, because he went to a barber school, and he went to contractor school. Everything you see in here, he did. He did a full remodel on this big open… This whole room was open, and he did that. He was not a college guy, he did a trade, but his money is gonna put his three through college, because he still has a value for it. And so, yeah, just think about the trade piece. But that’s it but, I thought your questions were excellent.
DM: There you go.