Those that know me well know that I love truth more than I love comfort. This past week, the ugly truths of police brutality, implicit racial bias, and systemic oppression of black and brown people made many uncomfortable. In fact, many are still uncomfortable; particularly in the christian community. This past week has pushed the christian community to take a serious look in the mirror and introspectively determine if diversity is something that is only espoused in word or actually lived. And when I say actually lived, I ask… Are we brave enough to listen, empathize, and act courageously when it is counter cultural to do so? When we might be afraid to do so? When it is uncomfortable to do so.
I have pondered why the #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile killings (by police officers) have caused me to grieve so deeply; more deeply than previous incidents of police abusing power. More than #FreddieGray. More than #SandraBland. More than #MikeBrown. More than #TamirRice. More than #SamDubose. More than…
And then it hit me – this list does not seem to end. Data from http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/ shows us that this brutality by police officers upon black lives is a systemic problem. And…many of my non-minority christian friends have become mute. I liken it to an ethnically mixed group of high school kids who are friends discovering that one of the black guys has chosen to go to the teacher after class and speak up for another black student who is repeatedly being poorly treated by someone in authority. Most in this ethnically diverse group vow to show up to help defend this black friend because they all believe this student is worthy of defense. You may be able to finish this hypothetical story for me. The friend arrives at the class room and sees that primarily his black friends kept their word to stand with him.
Welcome to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The silence of a segment of the christian community has been deafening because it feels like fear has rewritten the justice narrative and it has been more comfortable to remain silent, just give money or hide behind the cloak of one’s ethnic identity. None of these positions equate to solidarity. And none of them will bring reconciliation.
Don’t be silent – your silence speaks loudly. All week this “silence” has been ringing in my ears to the tune of “How can we say that we are the church when there doesn’t appear to be a willingness to bear one another’s burden?” I’ve said it before and I will say it again; lament with us first. No solutions, just solidarity for justice. A few days ago, a White, Christian friend of mine found courage to speak even among fear. As I read her account, I could see how she beautifully wrestled with the fear of speaking publicly regarding Black Lives Matter and how the comfort of this fear was no longer greater than the cost of her silence. Truthfully, her voice on this issue will speak more loudly than mine and this is why silence and/or apathy is not an option for the white christian. Your silence may be communicating the wrong message. PLEASE READ HER PERSPECTIVE.
Don’t JUST give your money – because settlements don’t settle it. Now is the time to leave our paternalism at home. This god-complex which causes us to want to “fix” the problems in the lives of those they are serving through money is crippling. When we take a look at 11 recent high profile cases of men and women who had died at the hands of police, several of them received settlements between $5 million and $6.5 million dollars. Settlement after settlement injustice remains. Giving money is a necessary part of the solution, but it is not the solution. It takes courage to speak. To attach YOUR NAME to cause in which you advocate for equitable treatment. There is such anonymity in “only giving money,” but, when there’s person associated with a cause, there is a different cost.
Don’t forsake your eternal identity for your ethnic identity – I am a follower of Christ first and then I am a black woman. #Realtalk – I am unapologetically black, but our eternal identity as Christians is what unites us. This means that as sisters and brothers in Christ, the higher call for all of us is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). When I rise each day, I have to remember not to lead with my #blackness and that it is not the primary narrative that shapes my life. The banner over my life is one of redemption from sin. We have seen what sin can produce individually and on a larger scale systemically. To my White brothers and sisters, I encourage you as well to lead with your identity as a follower of Jesus. To seek justice for the marginalized. To see the #imagodei (image of God) in others. The practical steps to make this occur may be scary, but this is what I want to do. I want to talk with you. To share in and learn of your fears. To seek God together for our nation. To serve God together in our nation.
I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back. Jesus didn’t simply advocate for the marginalized when it was easy and comfortable. He lived in the difficult places; had difficult, yet honest conversation to reveal and then reconcile hearts. I too will live in that place if that is the first step towards reconciliation.
Here is a sermon preached a few days ago on #Justice by Pastor Léonce Crump Jr. of Renovation Church. This sermon will make many uncomfortable before it encourages. He is speaking the truth in love, so I’m comfortable with that.
Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. – Isaiah 1:17