Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.John F. Kennedy
Chapter One (A Sample from the Book!)
Finding Our Way: It’s Not as Simple as Black and White
You see that image above? Men squaring off on each other. I shot that a few years ago at Shiloh Battlefield. What do you know about Shiloh? Shiloh ironically means a place of peace. Does it matter today in terms of our own social unrest in the streets and squares of any of our cities across America? Fighting each other. Killing each other. Sound familiar? Do we even really know why we are so angry?
You know, when I left Kentucky as a young man in my early twenties, ready to fight for “Justice,” and to begin my journey to change the world, I did not realize just how ignorant and naïve that ideology was in the context of social justice and even in terms of the Biblical life in Christ. I was a believer and a sold-out follower of Christ, but I really had no idea the magnitude of warfare I was wandering into or just how many landmines there were in the ever-changing human landscape of the modern (and post-modern) age.
When Our Stories Become Real, We Become Authentic
My Great-Great Grandfather and his brother both fought for the Union Army, in the 2nd Kentucky Infantry when the American Civil War began. Benjamin was my grandfather and Leo was his brother.
Benjamin would survive the war and become a respectable blue-collar worker in Louisville, Kentucky, then, still somewhat an outpost to the West – the frontier. He was a republican and fought for the rights of blacks (slaves) and all immigrants to have the same freedoms and the same privileges as everyone else. He would even later in life, after the war, become a voting official, there to provide just an unbiased oversight.
I’m still doing the research, but his brother, a year younger would survive the war. Best as I can tell from the records I’ve found so far, he was severely wounded or injured at Shiloh, where he and his brother would barely survive an ambush where three quarters of their unit was cut to the ground by confederate enfilading (overlapping) fire. It also appears from available documents that he was very likely harassed after the battle by command and would end up in the hospital in Louisville as the Union Army made its way back to Kentucky to regroup, resupply, and focus its attention on General Braxton Bragg.
Not to chase too much of a rabbit here, but Leo “escaped” the hospital just before the Union Army left Louisville heading south. He stole an officer’s horse and his gear, and disappeared into what reads like a modern Civil War novel. I won’t spoil the story, as I intend to write about all of it at a later time, perhaps even create a screen play, but it is interesting to note, that Leo didn’t survive the war emotionally.
He became what amounted to an outlaw and it appears my grandfather’s stories about Benjamin’s brother dying in a shootout were probably true. There was a lady involved, but even after going AWOL and being recaptured in a pretty amazing manhunt, it appears he was very disgruntled by the things he had seen and experienced. We didn’t even know about PTSD then, but I believe he was wounded by a broken heart as well as the traumas of war. My having been influenced by letters written after his capture, I know he felt betrayed by the nation to which he had sworn his life and allegiance.
There was a third brother that my grandfather used to tell me about. He would say that the family was split and that third brother went to Texas. He was disillusioned with the “United States,” as granddaddy would put it and left Kentucky just as the war was beginning.
Oh, how I wish I had the sense back then to ask the right questions, write things down, and pursue the wealth of knowledge that would die with both of my grandparents. They were so special to me, but I didn’t realize what a treasure there was to learn from each of them. They gave me a lot in the way of love and knowledge, but looking back, there’s so much more I could have gained if I had just taken the time. I am hoping this book will help us all to know what we need to look for, provide some information on how to better find it, and give us the courage we need to stop shooting at each other and start living our lives as one people – one race.
Interestingly Leo was pardoned and recommissioned (by the governor of Kentucky) into service in a special mountain unit that helped end the war in Kentucky. He was honorably discharged.
For a few years, I actually dismissed most anything I found concerning Leo. My bias caused me to see him as a traitor. In reality, he was not. Documents and information I later found allowed me to see the bigger picture and allowed me to realize that he too was very likely the victim of serious and severe emotional trauma (alongside of combat related injuries) heaped on him by bigots that littered the landscape during those times in both the North and the South.
Leo in some way represents many that I see today who are bitter and wanting “justice” for the things done to them and those they love(d).
On the other hand, Benjamin represents a man who suffered just as his brother did, but the decisions he made and the choices he pursued allowed him to not only change the game but allowed him to win his own personal battles with hatred and anger. He rose above the darkness of his day and he did what he could in the time he was given.
I think sometimes we make the mistake of believing time is in our hands and that we have to be the ones to change things as they are right now. Right!? Do you ever feel this way? I do!
The truth is, sometimes it is only our place to start things moving. In the Bible, sometimes change for Israel took place over multiple generations. We can learn from this if we choose to listen to the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus told us would teach us all things!
Tracking the Truth
In a former life, I was a tracker… a tactical tracker and I taught many others to track human beings, both in military and police conditions. I’ve been on the trail of Benjamin and Leo since I left Gettysburg for the first time almost twenty years ago. I’ll share when, how, why, etc. a little later. But it’s important to note that the pursuit of these two ancestors have opened my eyes on multiple fronts of the same struggles we face today.
We believe times are different. We think that the “racial struggle” we face is something new – or reasonably new. It’s not.
In reality, these same struggles have existed since the beginning. And, if you believe or will accept as my own bias, that Adam and Eve were the beginning point of “race,” then we can trace our problems all the way back to them and their children.
I find solace in that in some ways, as it allows me to know that the spiritual war we glaze over in church is very real. It’s helped me to frame life differently in these Fall-years of my own life. I look at the lives of these two and I realize that we ALL have CHOICES to make. Those choices will affect our current lives and the days ahead of each one of us. Those choices will also affect others. This is why I aggressively address leaders in this book.
We All Have a Story: Let’s Share Them in Truth!
Benjamin and Leo were two young German immigrants and had secretly signed up for the Union Army just across the Ohio River from where they lived as teenagers growing up in a conflicted and violent society in Northern Kentucky. They were very likely hated by many (cultural bigotry was prevalent at the time), especially in Louisville and had to live among others (other German, Prussian, and Irish immigrants) like themselves for protection and reassurance.
In the Spring of 1861, they both decided to cross the river and sign up to fight for a vision cast by President Abraham Lincoln. Fort Sumter had just been attacked and both “sides” had begun “recruiting.”
Kentucky was still on the fence and both sides were fighting for allegiances and troops. Enlistment was not allowed inside of Kentucky, although both sides breached this policy. A small secret camp, called Camp Clay lay just across the Ohio River from what is now Ft Thomas, Kentucky.
Sumter was hit hard in April 1861. Lincoln began building an Army and put massive fire on that South Carolina Coast. What is not talked about and rarely admitted is the fact that the water ways there, then guarded by Fort Sumter were also infested by slave ships secretly delivering “product” to the shores of North America.
Recently, new letters have been discovered that were written between Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard and Major Robert Anderson (Kentucky native in command of the Fort). Anderson attempted to hold the fort but was forced to surrender to Beauregard and departed the fort after two days of bombardment. Regardless of the newly found “evidence” pointing to the protection of slavery in the South, there was a long-standing history of slavery and slave commerce in the south that began at this location.
I am sure in April sometime the news of the events at Sumter reached Louisville and Northern Kentucky. Eighteen- and nineteen-year-old Leo and Benjamin were not long after (literally, Leo in April and Benjamin in May 1861) enlisting in the Union Army to fight for the freedom of blacks and other immigrants struggling to just make it in the U.S. in those turbulent days.
The rest of their story plays out like an intertwined saga of opposite and opposing forces attempting to synchronize. Leo would die young and live a promiscuous and criminal lifestyle, while Benjamin would go on to become a heroic warrior who served both state and federal units during his time with the Union Army. Between what I can find in the way of documentation and the stories my granddaddy used to tell me, while sitting and smoking an amazing smelling pipe in his rocking chair on the porch, I’ve learned that we all have stories untold. We also have stories yet to be told.
There becomes a problem when some of the stories we tell become fabricated or embellished with the intent of making a point or pushing an argument forward.
The lives of Benjamin and Leo led me to many other finds and incredible stories, some of which I’ll share in part with you throughout our journey together. But I think one of the biggest life lessons they’ve taught me so far is that American history has been severely altered. The TRUTH does need to be told – for ALL of our sakes. We All must stop disparaging each other and take time to listen to one another.
That’s not easy. It takes time. But it is the beginning of healing when we slow down and listen. I’ve listened to many of my brothers’ stories about their lives as a black man, and their family struggles in the modern culture inside the U.S. As I mentioned in the Introduction, their stories literally changed the way I communicate. They are influencing me as I write this book and I have already made changes to my thinking and my approach on seeking real social justice, for ALL.
I’d like to ask humbly that maybe you and they might take a little time to hear some of my story and listen as I share a little of my heart.
I too am still listening and working hard to learn.
It’s Not All Black and White
“Elusive Freedom” pretty much sums it up for me these days. While I have a much greater understanding of the battle, I remain perplexed by the complexities and pitfalls that continue to drive the hearts of men to hate one another. Some people may take the position that I am a white man and that I have no place in speaking into the matter of racial tension and conflict.
Over the years, it has amazed me how many times this has happened. It is really interesting when it happens on social media and is driven by people who have literally no investment in racial relations or who have never suffered the trauma created by racial tension. I have. Many have. It is for these folks of all races that I begin this journey into the hearts of men.
The truth is, we all have a bit of angst in our hearts. We all have some biases. We all share different and diverse cultures. Sometimes, we believe our culture is better than the other guy’s culture. But you know what? I have learned over the years that it is OK to be different.
We do not all have to agree. We do, however, need to learn to respect one another. We must learn to communicate with each other and learn to listen to each other.
You see, I have had the opportunity to meet many of the heroes and villains of the civil rights era. I have been on the receiving end of both black and white hatred. Ironically, whether it was dealing with black militants or white supremacists, I found one common element in all of them… ignorance.
On the other hand, I have also had the pleasure of meeting some of the “greats” around the south, both white and black, men and women dedicated to pursuing healing and reconciliation. Don’t we owe it to humanity to at least attempt to work together in slaying this dragon that threatens us all?
Here’s the thing… and it is “a thing,” God created all of us equal. That does not mean we are all equal in every way. It means that he loves us and that he died for ALL of us. It means that we have equal opportunities to serve and to live our lives as we choose. The decisions we make will frame our lives.
In many cases, decisions that others have made have had a huge impact on framing our circumstances, beliefs, and biases. But we still must stand against the temptations to give in to emotional decision making. That is a result of self-discipline and maturity (2 Timothy 1:7). But there’s an even greater weapon we have against our worldly emotions and the enemy of our souls. Both push us to embrace the selfish “solutions” that only lead to temporary relief – then pain.
There is this one thing that makes us all equal and it levels the playing field for every single person. It also gives us life power to overcome the adversaries in our lives and is God’s provision for us to all become equal at its foot.
It’s called the Cross.
But that discussion would involve discussions about power, love, rational thinking – rather than fear, envy and strife. (See 2 Timothy 1: 7) Those discussions will come a little later. But, for now, we’ve got to establish a few boundaries and lay a few ground rules. In the end, I’ll share with you the single most important factor necessary to solve these issues of culture wars and bigotry.
You know how it goes because you’ve felt it too. “Some” will always have something hateful to say. Let’s not involve them in the discussion. What if we keep the discussion in the light and without bias? What if, when we identify bias and confirmation biases, we call them out with grace, and we dig deep to find ways to communicate better? What if we set aside our implicit and explicit biases and work really hard to listen, hear and understand each other? I believe this would work much better than each of us TELLING the other what they need to do to “make it right.”
What if… What if Unity Could Break Our Chains?
What if we were honest enough to believe that there are enough wounds causing pain to all races and cultures at this time in history, and that all human beings deserve a chance to be heard? What if we fought hard together to be sure that Truth is encountered and even pursued during our cultural engagements?
This book is not for those who walk along those paths of creating strife and acting in ignorance. This book is for those who wish to heal a nation, restore broken lives and fractured souls, and for those who wish to participate in the freeing of those held captive by many years of hate and bigotry.
This book isn’t for those who wish to square off as the thousands did over and over again in the American Civil War. Neither the Revolutionary War, nor the Civil War, ended with the freedom of all in mind and heart.
What if we chose to work TOGETHER, put aside our differences, forgive (on all sides) and break the chains that have long shackled our nation and people? What if we pulled together in UNITY and reached out to every person, regardless of skin color and embraced them with the love and compassion that Jesus modeled for all of us? Those chains can break – and those chains will break. I’m going to show us how to do this together.
I’m nobody special. I’m just a man who has been deeply wounded in this life and has chosen to get back up again and again. Sometimes, it’s not easy and sometimes the only reason I have gotten back up is because someone who loved me was there to help pick me back up, dust me off and set things in motion again. Isn’t that what God was telling Moses in Exodus 14: 14? Check it out!
We can build endurance and help each other to stop crying, get back up – and keep moving! That’s what God told Moses and the people of Israel to do as they attempted to escape Egyptian slavery and found themselves in an impossible situation with the Egyptians hot in pursuit and the Red Sea to their backs. God delivered!
A Lifechanging Trip to Gettysburg
It was about 2005 when I took my little family to Gettysburg for the first time. It was there that the years of my frustration with racism came into view, and subsequently into focus. It was there, that I realized the massive sacrifice that many thousands had given to free the black man from his oppression. It was also there that I learned not to hate those who had done the same thing over and over to me as I missed promotions, endured slanderous remarks and unprovoked violence, and recovered from injuries inflicted by race-driven conflict.
Ultimately, it was there that I came to terms with the wickedness of my own human heart. For the first time, I understood the burden of the black man, but I found something deeper after realizing that my own great-great grandfather had fought and sacrificed much, as he and his brother fought throughout what was then called the “Western Theater” and what we now refer to as “the South.”
I’ve been to Gettysburg more than a dozen times since, but I’ve also traveled to the many battlefields where my grandfathers fought for their own freedom, as well as that of the slaves. I wonder often what it must have been like to be a young German immigrant fighting to support a nation of bigots who hated them too. Yes, this issue of racial hatred is much bigger than blacks and whites.
In truth, all lives matter and in the course of history, I have learned that yes, we must turn into the headwinds of black/white tensions. However, it is not at this level where we will find healing and restoration. The problem isn’t inherent in the color of our skin, or the differences in our cultures. The problem is very much rooted at the very depth of depravity in the heart of man. The human heart. It’s human nature to hate and its human nature that causes us to war with each other. (See Book of James, Chapter 4, any version of the Bible)
Looking Back to See Where We Are Going
Why did I share with you about Gettysburg and the Civil War? It’s really pretty simple. That war never ended. Abraham Lincoln was killed and that long road to healing actually never happened.
Some folks like to say, “Don’t look back because you’re not going that way.” I’d say to you that if you buy into this nonsense, you are never going to get to where you are going. Not because you don’t know the way to your destination, but because you really don’t understand where you came from.
I shared a little about my ancestry and family history because it was only when I really stopped, looked at where I was in life at that moment, and then looked back, that I realized I was off course. It was from the “looking back” that I realized I needed to make some serious course corrections before I was completely lost.
Some folks like to say, “Don’t look back because you’re not going that way.” I’d say to you that if you buy into this nonsense, you are never going to get to where you are going.– davidHenderman (2020)
I began to pray. Fervently, I began to seek God and ask him to deal with my own biases and my own developed hate toward those who had hurt me deeply. The odd thing about it was that I didn’t recognize my anger and hate for being what it was… hate.
I believed I was frustrated. I believed I was justifiably angry toward people who used their color of skin as an excuse to hate me because I am a white man and “representative” of a culture that “they” hate… sound familiar?
So, I shared a little about my family history to lay the groundwork going on two decades of research and preparation to turn into this headwind. That history, I learned as I traveled from battlefield to battlefield, would also release my mind and emotions to begin to understand the roots and causality of a problem that is actually much deeper than race and race relations.
Our Stories Matter
As it turns out, my ancestors were persecuted. My Scottish ancestors were persecuted by the English, and even young Benjamin and his brother Leo, were persecuted by the Americans they fought to defend. Their parents were likely persecuted in Germany before coming to the States.
I shared some with you, but the full story is nothing short of epic. They fought from the birth-pangs of the Civil War which erupted into guerrilla warfare in the hills of West Virginia, to the battlefields of Shiloh, Chickamauga, Perryville, Stones River, Chattanooga, and others. Their stories matter. My story matters. Your ancestors’ stories matter. Your story matters!
We need to know and tell these stories. However, what we cannot afford to do is take on their stories as if they are our own. Yes, their stories matter. But what really matters is the time and knowledge we have right now. What will we do with it? How will we steward what God has entrusted to us – in this time we are entrusted?
My ancestral tree I have traced back to the early days of the Vikings. That sounds pretty neat – right? Well, in one way it is neat. However, in another, it is tragic. I’ll share a little more with you about these kinds of things later.
Tony Evans (2011) shares about Africa and makes some very broad-brush strokes as he famously describes the African heritage. I’m not quite as old as Dr. Evans, who I have very deep respect for as a pastor and teacher. Yet, I’m also no longer a young man. I’ve been around the world numerous times, and I’ve seen a lot of the darkness the enemy can dish out, as well as a lot of the light and sunshine that God allows me to enjoy.
Rather than written in this book, wouldn’t it be great to be around a table with Dr. Evans and others and able to openly discuss these matters – TOGETHER! I understand where he is coming from, and I believe I understand why he took the approach he did in developing significant interest and narrative around black culture emerging from Africa preconditioned and ready to take on the mantle of Christianity. He makes two claims that Dr. John Perkins a few years later quotes as two major reasons that God allowed slavery to exist in the United States.
Yet, as a white man, I would also have to humbly take a different perspective on this and provide addition thoughts on why I believe God allowed it.
So, what if we are BOTH RIGHT? What if we could come together and combine our ideas and thoughts and ask God to lead us to a place where REAL reconciliation takes place, rather than a “repentance” steeped in guilt, and leveraged verbal coercion?
Yep, I meant those words. I’d be willing to change them in the right setting, but I have listened to so many white people who feel forced into a position of pseudo-guilt and who have just given up on trying to be involved because they view the current cultural crisis as a political maneuver and a means to flog them for something that many, if not most know very little about.
Numerous black writers consistently refer to All white people as “Anglos.” This alone turns off many white people. First, white people are not the same, nor did we all come from the same tribes that were scattered literally all over the European continent. There were many hundreds of tribes and clans and their cultures, social mores, and even worship were not the same. They were different in much the same way African nations were different.
This becomes very obvious as we travel the country meeting people from different communities. Cultures around the nation very much reflect those tribes of old and are part of what makes America a real “melting pot” and a beautiful tapestry. Black cultures and diversity also provide beauty and contrast to the tapestries that reflect the light of a nation that could be really free – if she would learn to love, listen, and develop a spirit of gratitude.
Lumping all Africans into the same mold is offensive to contemporary Africans who now live all over the African continent. That was no different many years ago and some may be surprised to learn that the “heritage” they are embracing is one of warring clans, cannibals, slave traders and violent pagan nations.
Second, lumping ALL white people into a single class or culture is offensive in itself. The brave men and women who fought for the Northern States and in support of the Lincoln Administration were generally white. However, they came from different cultures and countries, just as my ancestors who I have briefly described for you here. They were also white, just like the white people of the south who bought, sold and worked slaves prior to and during the Civil War. It is offensive to many families who lost loved ones who fought and died or who suffered greatly to free the slaves, when they have to endure constant stereotyping and discrimination leveled at white people.
The problem is that our current culture will not allow for open dialogue and peaceful engagement. I have yet to read a book by any of the “white evangelicals” as some of our black brothers call them, that addresses any of this. In many, perhaps most cases, I agree with Dr. Evans and Dr. Eric Mason, especially Dr. John Perkins as they discuss, describe and call out white evangelicals. Where the rub comes in is in the heart and mind of those white people like me who have fought against these ethnocentric bigots and who have fought (and at times lost) to free not only blacks, but the millions of white sheep following these church leaders posing as “shepherds.”
My dear black brothers, there is enough frustration and animosity to go around. I plead with you and my white brothers who sit quietly frustrated with the contemporary evangelical church in America. Even young millennials have risen to prominence pretending to be fighting for “social justice,” when in fact, they too were nothing more than a pawn of the old-guard establishment; much of whom rose out of the old south that on whom you have so rightly shined your light of truth.
We are not all the same and I pull my hair out (not really!) with frustration when I read examples of white supremacists engaging in an act of hate and violence, obviously a sociopathic mental illness, yet the examples are used to point out how blacks forgive, while leaving the idea to linger in the minds of both blacks and whites, that somehow this narcissistic sociopathic individual or small group of extremists represent people of a white color of melanin. Are you with me on this? Am I connecting with you?
My ancestors range from dirt-poor on one extreme to 22 generations back and a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. Through his line and others, we hail all the way back to Viking nobility. And, while that might sound “cool,” the more research I have done over the years, the more I have realized that I had a need to forsake the ways of old and to rebuke the chains of the evil one who captured and enslaved my people by paganism and darkness.
Rather than lauding our pagan ancestors, we as leaders must begin to shine light on these flaws in our ancestral make-up. We must rebuke the trails of ancestral sin the bind us to generations of brokenness and betrayals.
We’ll talk some more about this in a later chapter. I find myself becoming somewhat irritated at times when I read pastors who use movies to illustrate important points in their messages and to drive home something they wish to communicate. It leans on the very cultural issue that today’s modern church struggles from so deeply – entertainment.
I love how the writers of the Bible referred to factual and honest history. I love their references to their ancestors and the history of Israel. Paul calls out the use of myths and fables as wicked, yet we successfully use these “stories” for illustration, without realizing we are at times cultivating an interest in those who read our work or listen to our teaching. Unfortunately, that interest turns itself to the world and to matters of paganism, just as the history of my ancestors as depicted in movies and series like “Braveheart” or “Vikings.”
This is not a rebuke. Fiction has its place, and stories, allegories, and fiction are generally well suited for teaching and illustration. A short example is the movie “Braveheart.” That was without question one of the most incredible movies of our lifetimes. However, the sniveling, hop-a-round, whiny baby character portrayed in that movie was nothing like the historically accurate character of Robert the Bruce. He had not always been King of Scotland. He also murdered his rival and was very likely also a pagan in the midst of his “religious” beliefs.
There is an interesting divide between Tony Evans, Eric Mason, and cultural opponent, Voddie Bacham.
I would encourage you to read their books on this same topic genre. Much of what they say, I agree with. However, they do not even agree with each other on several very important matters that drive to the core of the issues we are discussing here. Ironically, I have grown to love to read and listen to all of them, but I must admit, I believe Dr. Bacham has removed the blinders and sought God with a fully transparent heart regarding his story, his heritage, and how we can all find unity by knowing and practicing the TRUTH. We all believe similarly that we are one race, one blood, and from One Maker.
But we must learn to listen. We must hear each other and allow each other to not only speak – but to share from the heart. If we pledge to care for each other’s hearts and minds, we will find our way – TOGETHER.
“Elusive Freedom” is my way of saying, I don’t buy into the current narrative. I hope you don’t either. If you do, then may I humbly ask you to journey with me in this book and please, attempt to listen to what I’ve learned through journeying with God for many years. I won’t get it all right, and you may need to straighten out my thinking on a point or two.
I can assure you though, I have worked hard to become AUTHENTIC and to identify and communicate the truth. I invite you to the table to listen and share our stories together. I want to listen and learn more. I long to see peace among our people. All of us. One race. One Blood.
It’s not as simple as “black and white.” Would you agree?
©2022 davidHENDERMAN (Updated)
About the Book: This book is timely and written from many years of first hand experience. I am currently talking with two potential publishers and having discussions with two very exciting people interested in writing the Forward and Afterword for the book. There is nothing like this book or approach currently on the market and it is my sincere heartfelt hope that this book will support, aid and stand along side our Churches and people as we seek and make progress toward healing our nation and the Church.