For once, I apparently had thought things through pretty carefully.
I preach a good many weeks of Christian youth camp each year at different camps across the Southeast, and this was my very last week of the year to do so. Midway through the week, I was informed that the teenage boys would be going wakeboarding, and I was invited to come with them and participate.
There is no way in the world I was going to turn that one down.
We arrived at the wake park to find a truly ingenious arrangement. There was a man-made, doughnut-shaped lake, and a cable and pulley system around and over it. We saw people being pulled around the lake at 30 mph, jumping ramps, doing tricks, having a ball. We pretty quickly got into our gear, made our way down to the launch dock, got our instructions and were ready to try it out.
And here is where my "thinking it through" came to be so helpful.
There were several young workers there, all of them clearly very familiar with wakeboarding. So I, the "not quite young" newbie, made up my mind to pay rapt attention to every word they said, and to do exactly as they instructed, no matter how counterintuitive it seemed.
The launch itself is the hardest part. When the rope and handle jerks you into movement, getting into the water smoothly and off and running is not as easy as it looks. But in just four tries, I had it down pat and was off and running. About an hour into our run, though, another group showed up, and one big guy in particular clearly was not so interested in paying attention. He carried the "I am an athlete; how hard can this be" attitude, and seemed to show a pretty healthy disdain for the laid-back, easygoing, "gnarly" workers. He clearly never "thought it through."
I really hate to confess how much I enjoyed seeing him jerked off of the deck and face planting into the water, time after time, after time, after time, for what seemed like an eternity. I never saw him make it up a single time. Thinking things through really does make things much better all the way around.
A rather serious issue our culture is debating at this moment, reparations for slavery, has the potential to be an issue that slams everyone's faces into the cold water of reality, with much longer-lasting damage than simply a bruised nose and a bit of embarrassment.
Human slavery has been around for thousands of years. The Bible records 400 years of brutal bondage that the Children of Israel went through in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. When they were finally delivered, God set up a radically different system of servitude, which I have written about at length in my book "Learning Not To Fear the Old Testament."
Up into the modern day, slavery is still practiced extensively in different parts of the globe. But it is the slavery days of America that, 157 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, are still causing such strife. And that strife is being met with a louder and louder chorus of voices calling for trillions of dollars in reparations. But if anything should be thought through so very carefully, this is it. Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death," and that same thing is found yet again just two chapters later for emphasis.
What America did was wrong, period. But may I ask some questions before a nation face-plants into something that will do great damage to everyone?
One, what could possibly be more unjust than holding people responsible for things they were not even alive to have anything to do with? And how far back do we take that? Because if we go back far enough, expand to enough continents and project from there onto everyone's descendants, everyone of every race is going to end up guilty.
Two, if racial peace is the ultimate goal for which we are all ostensibly striving, why would we lump all white people into one crowd and all Black people into another crowd, as if races of people are simply hive minds rather than individuals? I cannot imagine anything more divisive and bitterness-inducing than that.
Three, since every generation "wants theirs," who in their right mind would open this Pandora's box? Giving money to the present generation for things done by past generations will never stop future generations from saying, "but what about us?" It will literally never end.
Four, what about the blood of hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who died to overthrow slavery? Was their sacrifice not enough as payment?
Five, how do we even decide who is Black and who is white? Barack Obama was half white and half Black; is he equal parts guilty and innocent? White supremacist Craig Cobb took a DNA test and was found to be 16% sub-Saharan; is he entitled to 16% of a normal share of any reparations? Some Blacks actually owned other Blacks as slaves; are their descendants going to be in the payee or the payor crowd?
Or maybe there is a better way. Maybe in everything we could all take the approach of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers. He chose the route of unconditional forgiveness and proceeded to completely restore those broken relationships. Even many years later, he continued to reiterate that he held no ill will toward them, reminding them that "ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good."
As a not quite white and not really Black person, I do not exactly have a dog in the fight. But as a person who has seen forgiveness work time and time again, it seems to me that that option is the only one that has the potential to unify a nation rather than to further divide it.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at email@example.com.