Finding Reason: Remembering a Crucial Conversation Which Changed a Whole Family Dynamic

By Jeff Adams
Posted 6/15/22

He was a giant of a man. His character was considered remarkable by everyone who knew him. To say he was a legend is an understatement.

I considered him one of my mentors, as did many others. He …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Finding Reason: Remembering a Crucial Conversation Which Changed a Whole Family Dynamic

Posted

He was a giant of a man. His character was considered remarkable by everyone who knew him. To say he was a legend is an understatement.

I considered him one of my mentors, as did many others. He was a church-going Christian, and the patriarch in our family. We all looked up to him and marveled at his excellence in nearly everything he did. Yet, there was a problem inside him of which not everyone was aware.

He was a man of few words. When he did speak, it was usually very calculated. As a young boy, I valued his words and saw them as wisdom.

Then came the day when his hidden problem came to the surface. Clearly, when it revealed its ugly head, I knew he had simply trusted someone to teach him who was a false teacher. I don’t know who that was. It could have been a mentor of his who was similarly misled. It could have been a family member or even a preacher. Somebody in his life twisted Scripture, and contaminated this otherwise outstanding man of integrity.

I had already been through my first undergraduate seminary and started my own family. Still, I was very young. It was a casual visit at my grandparents’ home in Northern Louisiana. Several other family members were present, as I delighted in my time with the man of whom I spoke about earlier, my grandfather. Yes, my grandfather was one of my mentors, and in this visit he would reveal his dark false doctrine.

With so much more talent, wisdom, and character than most, this man who stayed mostly silent decided to share an intimate thought I had not heard from him, nor had I seen a hint of it in him. What would come out of his mouth completely caught me off-guard. As he said it, I suspected at least a couple of others in the room shared his sentiments and that disturbed me immensely.

Engrossed in a little distraction of a side conversation, we all paused when my grandfather purposely asked for my affirmation. He said something like, “Isn’t that right, Jeff?”

Not only had I not heard whatever he had just said, I hadn’t even noticed he said anything. Apparently, he was engaged in another side conversation, and thought I had heard him. What would follow would change the whole feeling in the room and would shift the dynamic of our family as a whole. It would also change lives.

I told him I didn’t hear what he said, so he confidently reiterated it. What came out of his mouth was a very racist thing. It would be the first and last racist thing I heard come from him.

“When God cursed Cain,” he said confidently, “God made him Black,” and then went on with very few words to explain how it had been told to him that dark skin was the curse of Cain.

There was an uncomfortable pause as I could feel the staring eyes of everyone in my family who was present. No one said anything. All waited, not knowing what was going to happen next.

Already, my family had leaned on me for prayers for each official gathering like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or even just family meals. I had, also, become the go-to-guy for Biblical questions from everyone. Everyone except my grandfather. This was the first time he asked me a question about the Bible and it wouldn’t be his last.

Looking back, I can see now that I forgot to pray in that moment. Even so, God’s grace was big enough to get us through this. Yes, it was shocking, disturbing and uncomfortable. It’s even uncomfortable for me to talk about today. Still, God took a very nasty group of words at this moment, and turned it into something else unexpected.

Just so you know, I had never heard this opinion. At this point I didn’t even realize there were still people who existed who thought racism and Christianity were compatible (see Philippians 2:3). Even so, somehow, some way, God had prepared me for the experience and I was oblivious to it.

After the long and awkward silence with no way out except to answer, I said something like, “If we accept the theory that the mark of Cain and his offspring was darker skin, then let’s ask the question, ‘What was the purpose of the mark and what does that mean to us?’”

I looked around the room and made eye-contact with each person. It appeared I had them in the palm of my hands. To me, it seemed like they were watching a movie and were captivated, waiting for the climactic moment to come. Eagerly they anticipated my next few words. I had no idea the impact my response would have on everyone there, especially my grandfather.

“Cain feared he would be killed as he was cast away for his sin, so he pleaded to God,” I continued. “God’s solution was to put a mark on Cain to protect him, so that if anyone tried to harm Cain, that person would be cursed by God seven times over. So, if we accept that the mark of Cain was darker skin, then we must then understand that people with darker skin are under God’s protection. We must leave them alone and not harm them.” Drop the mic. Boom.



Then came another seemingly longer awkward silence. There I was, the grandson of a very respected patriarch who was the mentor to many, correcting him in front of the family he led. This man of few words had just spoken racist words which some in the room likely agreed (maybe all), and one of the youngest in the room just contradicted him.

What happened next took everyone by surprise, including me. Although my outward appearance exuded confidence, I was afraid I was about to be asked to leave my grandparents’ home. I could see my grandmother and others in my peripheral vision, but I tried so hard not to take my eyes off my grandfather. I wanted him to see my sincerity of conviction and my confidence in Scripture for my answer. Even so, I remember gulping and hoping no one noticed. I, also, felt like the room was suddenly hotter, and my face had become flush, anticipating the hammer coming down.

I thought to myself something like, “Surely everyone feels like I just humiliated our patriarch and they are probably all very upset with me.” It felt like I had a ton of weight on me. Although I knew I did the right thing, I felt like I had crossed a line and there was no turning back in facing the consequences.

Would my family be forever divided now? Would people take sides?

My grandfather seemed to gain a resolve and sat up in his chair. He slapped his hands down on the sides and grabbed all our attention with one word, “Well …”

I’m sure it was a short pause, but it seemed like an eternity, before he continued, “Then, I guess I’m wrong.”

I don’t remember much about the rest of the visit, but I know that is when things shifted in my family. Although my grandfather maintained the respect of everyone, I found myself most assuredly carrying the baton as the new patriarch in our family. No, I wasn’t old enough, but my grandfather continued after that day, reaffirming me. 

From that time forward he regularly would defer to me on many matters. He, also, demonstrated a very inclusive attitude. For years after that I was privileged to watch him treat people of all skin colors with equity.

I thank God for this memory which was brought to the surface recently as I was listening to three brothers, all incarcerated. Two had darker skin; one was a former white supremacist. They had all already learned skin color should never be something we use to judge anyone. They had been teaching me on a regular basis that our differences can actually make us stronger together.

We have changed the term from “Emancipation Day” to “Juneteenth” to emphasize the significance of this great American historical marker which happened in Galveston, Texas, Monday, June 19, 1865. This was when General Granger and his men put an exclamation mark on President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Two historical figures played key roles in helping this country start treating people more fairly, as slaves were freed. It was a step in the right direction, and is absolutely worth celebrating proudly, despite the shouts of those who claim nothing about American history has been good.

I understand racism is real and there are too many today who still are racist. And, yes, people today still face consequences of long-held racist ideas in this world. I’m all for treating everyone fairly and listening to others’ perspectives. I’m also for not dividing us more, but am for uniting us as much as possible.

In honor of Juneteenth, or if you prefer, “Emancipation Day,” I’d like to end with familiar quote from a great world-changer which is worth repeating again and again:

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

•••

Pastor Jeff Adams is a longtime community leader, victim advocate, counselor and chaplain. He ministers internationally, nationally and locally. His column appears online weekly and can be reached at jeffreydadams@hotmail.com.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here