Feb. 18, 2014
Black History Month is a reminder to reflect on the heritage and contributions of the black community in America. To celebrate, we caught up with Ron Miller, author of “Sellout: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch” and associate dean of the Helms School of Government, to talk about faith, race, politics, and his writing process. Get your free Kindle or Nook sample of his book today!
Liberty University Press: As an author, what is the hardest part about the writing process for you?
Ron Miller: Getting started! I have dozens of topics about which I’d love to write, and which I believe would make great books, but it seems that when I have time, I don’t have the words, or when I have the words, I don’t have time! My daughter shared with me some advice… and it’s good advice for every current and aspiring writer – WRITE. Just write.
LUP: Why do you write?
RM: I write because I find my greatest expression and the most clarity when I sit down and put my thoughts into words. When I write, it disciplines me and calms me, because it allows me to bring structure and purpose to the musings of my mind. I have been a speaker and a writer for most of my life, but writing is God’s gift to me, and mine to the world. I write because I am a writer.
LUP: How did your childhood impact your political and moral values?
RM: I was raised in a family that believed in Jesus Christ and the Bible. My grandfather was a particularly powerful influence in my life, even though the actual time we spent together wasn’t that much, since my father was a career Air Force NCO, and we lived the nomadic life of a military family. My grandfather and I couldn’t have been more different…Yet, we were both passionate about spiritual matters and politics – my grandfather led me to Christ and encouraged my interest in the public square, although it gave him fits that I eventually aligned myself with conservative politics!
LUP: In your book, you discuss the decision to choose conservatism, in spite of growing up in a predominantly liberal black community. What influenced your decision to write about your experiences?
RM: The tension between my conservatism and a society, including my family, which presumes my blackness obligates me to be liberal, was the inspiration for many dinnertime conversations with friends over the years. Eventually, life circumstances, namely unemployment, presented me with the time to write, and I took advantage of it.
LUP: Based on your experiences, do you believe the black community is predominantly liberal?
RM: No, I don’t believe it is, in practice, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that the political labels of “conservative” and “liberal” are inadequate to describe the black community, or my own worldview, for that matter. A simplified description would be that the black community has conservative values and liberal political allegiances, but even that isn’t nuanced enough. Black people believe in family, personal responsibility, hard work, self-defense and self-reliance, values which would ostensibly be labeled “conservative.” But they also believe in community, charity and helping others in need, and our culture labels these values – incorrectly, I might add – as “liberal.” Frankly, all these values, taken together, are thoroughly consistent with values espoused in the Bible, which transcends politics and labels.
LUP: What does Black History Month mean to you?
RM: Black History Month, as envisioned by historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, was intended to offset the pernicious indoctrination of the public school system of the day, which sought to portray black Americans as inferior to their white counterparts, and ignored the contributions of blacks to the growth of this nation. As such, it was a celebration of achievement and excellence, and I fully embrace its original intent.
LUP: What advice would you give for Christians interested in government work?
RM: Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”, and we need to put that truth into practice. This is the essence of a Biblical worldview. Politics seeks to compartmentalize us and tells us the lie that our faith belongs in a box on the shelf, and not in the public square. We need to take everything captive to Christ, and that includes our vocations, even government. Doing so doesn’t mean you’re going to always fall on the side of one political party or the other. Christ is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, nor any other partisan designation, and to presume He favors one faction over another is offensive to Him. Put Him first and act based on His commands; that is the essence of being a good Christian in government.
We have hope in Jesus Christ, we know that the world is headed for a collision with the Almighty, and we know the victory is already His. That in itself should be enough to give us confidence and calm, and should gently season our demeanor toward and conversations with others. Be at peace, and let your peace shine like a light, and you will draw others to you. Speak with humility and grace, and it will be returned to you.
LUP: Why is your book important in today's world?
RM: My approach in writing the book was to be a voice of calm and reason in an arena that favors noise and chaos, and my ultimate objective was to point those who read the book to an understanding that authenticity and wholeness come from surrendering everything to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.
When I concluded at a young age that my political allegiances placed me in conflict with Christ’s teachings, I had no choice but to change. It wasn’t a clear-cut choice, because politics is an imperfect vessel within which to contain the will and authority of God, but it was a step toward authenticity, which I continue to seek in my public and private life. Neither race nor politics, nor anything else, should come before Christ in the life of a Christian, and that is what I hope will be apparent to anyone who reads and comprehends my message. Even the ultimate solution to the conundrum of race in America, as I present it in the final chapter of the book, is of Christ – forgive as we have been forgiven. There is no other way forward except the way paved for us by Christ, who forgave us even as we murdered Him on the cross. If Americans, black and white, could forgive in that manner, I know God would bless us. I pray I live to see that day.