The past year has been quite unsettling in the area of race relationships. I’ve lost count of the videos of African-American individuals gunned down and caught on film. They have been shocking. The discrepancy of sentencing of white perpetrators versus black of similar crimes has also been eye-opening. Through this, I have been challenged by some of my Black friends about the silence of white pastors, of which I am one, and the white church, to join our voices with those in the black communities that are experiencing oppression and systemic racism.
This summer, I began my own sort of journey to better understand the history of systemic racism and injustice in our country by reading The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. This book was the most difficult book I’ve ever read because it forced me to own up and recognize the racism that exist even when we don’t want to admit it does.I also recently watched the documentary 13th which provide a moving visual to Alexander’s book (she appears in the documentary). Both the book and the documentary go a long ways to shed light on the racism and oppression that is alive and well in our country.
We do harm to our brother and sisters when we say that ALL LIVES MATTER as a rebuttal to the BLACK LIVES MATTER movements. Both are right. But the very fact that our Black brothers and sisters face injustice, racism, and inequality on a regular (daily) basis means that we (white people) are not living up to “All Lives Matters.” I love what Pastor Carl Lentz, from Hillsong New York, said recently,
“At THIS church, we are not saying ‘all lives matter’ right now because this is a logical assumption that most reasonable people agree with. All lives are not at risk right now. We ARE saying BLACK LIVES MATTER. Because, right now, black lives apparently are worth LESS on our streets. It’s “our fight” not “their fight.”
If we, as Christians, are going to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ- then the fight for equality of Blacks, Latinos, and others is our fight. Jesus says
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
If we are “in-Christ” then we cannot justify ignoring the experiences of our brothers and sisters who are thought of as “less-than” equal. We are part of the same family, the same body. When one part of the body hurts, the entire body hurts. Right now, there are parts of the body of Christ that are hurting while other parts of the body ignore the pain or even act as if the hurting part of the body is the reason for the pain. Now, more than ever, the church of Jesus Christ must be agents of reconciliation and healing- and it begins by listening, mourning, and standing with our brothers and sisters who experience this pain on a regular basis.
So what does this look like? I admit that I struggle at times to know exactly what I should do- but I believe it begins with listening to our friends and colleagues in the Black community- to hear and acknowledge the injustice that is present, and to use our voices, churches, and influence to work for the cause of justice.