“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.” (Revelation 3:11-12a NIV)
Losing our crowns is easy today, especially for people of color because recent events have triggered feelings of insecurity and a profound sense of un-safety. The Black Lives Matter movement has our nation in an uproar.
In Revelation 3:7-13 we read Christ’s letter, to the Church at Philadelphia, in the salutation (3:11-12a) we can explore what Jesus means by, “Keeping Our Crown.”
Jesus in Revelation 3:11-12a writes, “Hold on to what they have, so that no one will take their crown.” The true servants of Christ, the believers, are the pillars of His church.
In the September 2015 edition of Ebony, Cindy George wrote an article titled Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome. In it, Tatyana Rhodes, the young lady confronted at a poolside in Texas last summer said, “I feel that I need to be extra-aware of my surroundings; I don’t really feel secure or safe.”
Tatyana was attacked by two white women shouting racial insults at her, including, “Go back to subsidized housing” although she was invited by residents, who, like her, actually lived in the community. A police officer wrestled her 14-year-old friend to the ground and aimed his gun at the crowd.
Then there was Trayvon Martin, shot while standing his ground; Eric Garner, choked to death for supposedly selling cigarettes, and Martese Johnson’s bloody arrest in Virginia. In June of this year, we endured the nine black Christians shot in a church bible study in Charleston, S.C.; and in recent days, Christians have been shot on school campuses.
Author Joy DeGruy, Ph.D., quoted in the Ebony article, has studied these dynamics for over 25 years; calling it Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS). DeGruy says the good news is, “Though the issue is complex and deeply rooted, it is still possible for blacks to live victoriously in America today.”
PTSS is different from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is “the result of a single trauma experienced directly or indirectly.” Carl Bell, M.D., and a Chicago psychiatrist says, “It’s not the trauma that causes PTSD, it’s the helplessness in the face of it.”
DeGruy explains Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome’ (PTSS) as “the result of multiple traumas over lifetimes and over generations, it even gets into our DNA.” DeGruy added, “Living in Black skin is a whole other level of stress.”
George, the article’s author states, “It’s hard to heal, when we keep getting hurt. All this behavior translates into a hyper-vigilance and it sends a message that makes us feel no where in this land is really safe, at times not even in church.”
Revelation 3:11-12a implies those who keep the gospel in a time of peace shall be kept by Christ in their hour of trial and temptation. By keeping the gospel we are prepared for the trial and the temptation. The same grace that makes us fruitful in times of peace will make us faithful in times of persecution.
Christ says those who do not persevere are the ones who shall lose their crowns. The persevering Christian shall win the covenant prize of keeping their crowns.
So what can we do to keep our crown, and how can we fight PTSS? Cindy George says we can do 7 things:
1. Feel the pain. Acknowledge the hurt.
2. Unplug after the traumas: get the facts, turn off the T.V. and social media sites.
3. Find a safe cultural space where you can speak your mind, without fear of conflict.
4. Have a self-care strategy. Pray, meditate, exercise, play with kids or your pet, and get a therapist.
5. Protect your children; have “the talk,” make sure they know what it means to be black in America.
6. Glory in the good. When someone says your daughter is beautiful or your son is smart say, “thank you.”
7. Take formal action when trauma occurs. Get a trained and experienced attorney, and then file an official complaint.
Christ calls us and the church to this duty. He promised He would empower us to persevere, and to hold fast to what we have, and thus keep our crowns.
The Rev. R. Joaquin Willis, D. Min., is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org