Written as “a testament of a mother’s love for her son and of a sister’s love for the body of Christ,” Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope is a book the church needs now.
Jasmine L. Holmes, daughter of well- known Baptist preacher Voddie Baucham, is wife to Phillip Holmes and mother to two sons, Wynn and Langston. A gifted writer, Holmes is also a middle-school humanities teacher in Mississippi. Sharing a series of letters written to her oldest boy when he was two years old, Holmes invites her readers to eavesdrop on conversations she will have with her sons as they grow up. We would do well to listen and learn.
As an African American sister in Christ, Jasmine Holmes knows well the challenges facing her sons in a country where a black man might be shot on his afternoon run. Jesus and His Word always have pre-eminence in her teaching, and yet she carefully demonstrates the racist history behind the notion of “just preach the gospel,” a stance that failed black believers miserably across America for decades. She loves the church deeply and so she can challenge the church, showing what it looks like to love across racial and cultural lines.
Listen, for example, to Holmes teach her son about the ministry of reconciliation, and what that looks like for a black man:
I want to raise you to know that speaking up is not an act of anger or aggression no matter the color of your skin, the timbre of your voice, or your gender. It is ok to say “ouch” when you are in pain. I want you to be a reconciler: someone who, in light of the fact that Christ reconciled us to the Father, seeks to reconcile with his brothers on earth. This doesn’t mean being a pushover but doing the hard work of digging deep into relationships, which involves honesty and knowing when to overlook an offense and when to confront one. It also involves fighting for justice, even when it’s awkward.
Sharing some painful experiences of her own, Holmes validates both the offense and the anger her sons will surely feel as they grow up while also providing a guide into grace and forgiveness made possible by Jesus.
As a white mother of sons, I recognize Holmes as a kindred spirit, but also as a teacher sharing experiences I need desperately to hear, and as a sister in Christ who humbles me with her generous – yet uncompromising – grace. She does not hold back from saying the hard things her white brothers and sisters need to know because she is as firmly committed to the body of Christ as she is to her own adored sons and husband.
Mother to Son would make ideal reading for mothers and sons together, providing a template for conversations that believing families of every race need to have.
Please see also this conversation with Jasmine Holmes as she shares A Moment of Steadfast Hope on Psalm 119:24, and check out this excellent podcast with Collin Hanson: “From Mother to Son on Race, Religion and Relevance.” Read this excellent piece discussing recent events by her husband, Phillip Holmes, “We Need to Be Uncomfortable.”