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A Juneteenth Reflection

I’m writing this post on Juneteenth, the national holiday established in 2021.

Juneteenth celebrates the liberation of slaves in Texas two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and more than two months after the Civil War ended. In an egregious display of power and control, slaveowners refused to grant freedom until federal forces finally appeared in Galveston.

In the fantastic documentary Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom (which I cannot recommend enough), filmmaker Ya’Ke Smith reveals a treasure trove of mind-numbing facts, including the plantation owners reluctance to grant freedom until General Granger showed up in Galveston with 6,000 Federal troops among whom were 4000 black soldiers in a city with an estimated population of 10,000.

Imagine the effect of that.

Carey Latimore, Ph.D., Trinity University History Professor, makes the observation that the enslaved people there had “never seen a black person in any sense of authority.

Even more insidious to documentarian Smith—who is a Christian—was learning of the “Slave Bible.” It contained only about 10% of the Old Testament and only half of the New Testament. Anything pertaining to the exile was excised by the publishers. And no surprise: verses regarding freedom were conveniently left out, such as Galatians 3:28—“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The fact that freed slaves immediately began planting churches they could meet in is a testament to their capacity to find real truth and liberty in scripture through the lens of persecution which radically changes how you read the Bible.

Sadly, systems and structures of racism didn’t end with Juneteenth; it is ongoing. But for now, check out the film here.

A provoking line in a poem opening the documentary lodged in my soul and caused me later to follow another line of thinking. A woman looking out over the sea that brought millions of slaves to America’s shores reflects on a pre-Juneteenth moment of history: “The real question was: who will tell us that we had been set free?”

It made me wonder about us members and leaders in the Beloved Community—are we telling others about the Messiah who can emancipate them—who offers freedom? As John point-blank writes: “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” 1 JOHN 5:19b NIV

Have we forgotten them?

As followers of Jesus, do we really see ourselves as spiritual liberators? Are we coming with the full force of God’s Kingdom to declare emancipation? We, the formerly enslaved, now showing up with authority to declare freedom for all? Or as Jesus put it:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” LUKE 4:18, 19 NIV

The question has been haunting me: Who will tell us that we had been set free?

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


Check out the latest Elemental Leaders podcast episode on building an outward focused organization (“Servant Leadership Unveiled…”) wherever you get your podcasts...or on our website!


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