Racism...A response to responses
As I begin writing this I want you to know that I REALLY struggle to make a statement about the racial injustice and hatred that fills our world, our country and our hearts. I’m not exaggerating, I write this with anger, with great frustration and deep sadness for the continual oppression and injustice to black people, but that should be obvious, that should be the reaction of all humans- Yes I am angry with that, but my irritation in writing this comes from a different angle. Listen, we don’t need another social media post that simplifies this situation to two or three sentences, we don’t need another blog post from a pastor condoning what happened. Sorry if this hurts, but we don’t need your social media post that racism is wrong- It was, is and will always be whether you agree with that or not. We don’t need another blog post about “love like Jesus.” Or “this should really break our hearts.” We don’t need all these if they don’t lead to action. (James 2:16) See, each of these things aren’t bad in themselves, but the danger is they can easily become echo chambers of inaction. Instead we need each of these things to move us toward doing something. My desperate struggle, as I’ve been praying about how to lead in this time, is “are people looking for a statement so they can settle their own insecurities and quickly move on to ‘life as normal’ in a week or so?” I don’t want to make this statement because I fear that people reading will “yes and amen” it, possibly sharing it to their social media, feeling like they’ve participated in the desired change, yet truly not doing anything at all.
I’ve seen this over and over- I post this, you post that, we all share our “thoughts and prayers”, we agree with those who articulate things so eloquently, giving soothing and affirming words to our thoughts… and that’s it. We look to the church to make a statement so we can once again feel like we’re doing something… and move on. While “moving on” may not be our intention, our actions (or lack of action) reveal the motives for our “yes and amens” were actually only there to serve us, settle us, and help us process the situation.
So, I don’t want to make a statement that will allow that. I don’t want to give some soundbites, some fluffy advice, or even a strong challenge that has us contemplating things for a few minutes and then moving on with our day. I don’t want to package my words expressively so that we all feel better and can get on with our lives. I want us to sit in the discomfort- a mild sacrifice compared to what the black population has endured. I want us to feel the tension, struggle with what to do, and realize this can’t be something we quickly move past. I want us to be righteously angry and not look to someone to articulate that anger so we can process it and leave it in the past. I want us to stop thinking that posting something solves anything. I want us to be scared, sad, and desperate… and then I want us to ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING… What that is… I don’t know… and even if I did I don’t think I’d tell you because then, again, it would give us a checklist of things to do instead of sitting in the struggle, fighting to engage in tension, and a resilience to do the personal work of continually participating in making a change.
Please understand this loud, clear, and lovingly- Jesus didn’t simply make a statement (social media, blog, or personally) that he loves the world. He came into our space, interacted with us. He was tempted in every way we are. He participated in our humanity. He cried with us, encouraged us- personally. He entered into suffering. He experienced what we experience. He knew things were messed up and he did the most difficult thing- He gave up his place of honor and did something about it- something that cost him unimaginable, undeserved pain. He took action by becoming a servant. He defended the oppressed. He did not pity our situations as “their situation,” He made our situation his situation. He did not choose the easy way, did not give up when it got tough. Instead, he leaned on strength from God the Father to fight evil, and in the ultimate act of love- the thing we say we aspire to be- he laid down his life. This is what we are called to do. What that means, again, I’m not sure, but I do know it doesn’t mean simply making a statement and forgetting about this in a month. It does mean intentional relationships, long, hard conversations, and an eagerness to listen, and listen more, and listen more. It means a willingness to do more than agree with a statement. It means taking action- actual action. It means not willing to make people sound bites or “the other side.” It means not looking for a way to settle the unsettledness in your heart so you can move on. It means being uncomfortable- significantly uncomfortable. It means that the future will be tough, we will be tired, and it will hurt because we won’t let this rest. It means not vilifying groups of people because of the actions of a few. It means love- actual active LOVE. It means it will not be easy, it will not be comfortable, and it will cost us something.
So, with love and conviction I hope this response doesn’t settle things. I pray that it doesn’t make us feel like we’ve done anything… but I do pray, I do hope, that it awakens us all to actually participating in the change that is needed… actually figuring out what part we play in racism… actually looking for ways to combat racism and prejudice in our own lives… actually finding ways to help us move beyond hatred… actually acting, and loving, like Jesus.
Real Life= For us, as a church, I’ve started conversations with a friend of mine who is a local pastor, digging deeper into this subject and will be sharing those conversations with you to help us process what that actual action is…. Join us this Sunday for the initial conversation. Continue to pray about, wrestle with, and lean on God’s strength to take action, love deeply, and be the hope that Jesus offers.