Race-Related Reflections

I looked and saw how much people were suffering on this earth. I saw the tears of those who are suffering. They don’t have anyone to comfort them. Power is on the side of those who treat them badly. Those who are suffering don’t have anyone to comfort them. -Ecclesiastes 4:1

I’ll keep this as brief as possible, but I wanted to share some recent and personal reflections on everything going on race-related in the US. I have hesitated a bit to share too much directly on social media (minus my Ben Foley page) for several reasons:

a). I questioned what difference it could make just posting. Most people already have their opinions and minds made up. Plus, would I then think because I posted I did my “duty?” Would posting in other words, just make me feel better but not change anything? Would it just offend everyone rather than helping anyone? However, if I have any gifts, it would include communication, so why not use my gift to try to add something of meaning? Shouldn’t we use whatever gifts God has given us to serve others according to the need and his leading? Aren’t we called to use our influence and speak up on behalf of others (Proverbs 31:8-9)?

b). I am a white male who does not have the same experiences as many within the black community. Therefore, it seems their voices are more relevant to hear from, listen to, and learn from (and not be selective in finding voices that may fit my political narrative). However, part of the problem is the silence, in general, from the white community/church in downplaying or dismissing this as a real issue in our culture or making it a mere political issue or something not relevant to the Gospel (see my previous post on Pentecost and how that relates to events going on today around race). Why can’t we acknowledge the simple truth that others cultural experiences differ from ours and for some that means greater challenges than others? Also, why do we (on either side of the political divide even within the church) have a selected set of certain “issues” or “causes” we will be vocally loud about, but not others? For those of as that are followers of Jesus, we need to work at being consistent with our voices, holistic in our approach, and faithful to Scripture in every issue, not just ones that line up with our political talking points. At the same time, issues have a complexity that is often overlooked in our entertainment driven culture looking for catchy sound-bites that often convey a false dichotomy. A major challenge we face is that we live in an either/or culture instead of often a both/and. Also, we are all at different points of our journey. That gives no excuse to racism or other evil’s, but it is to say our understanding, solutions, or experiences may differ one to another.

c). It is overwhelming the divide and trying to make sense of what the “right” response is. It seems whatever is said is “wrong” according to one group, and  “right” according to another. Political agendas and narratives influence both sides and every response. For example, if you speak out about systemic racism and police abuse, you are labeled a certain way politically, or your fidelity to the Gospel is questioned. (For the record justice is a part of the Kingdom of God, but so is redemption and salvation…and vice versa). But if you note (especially if you are white) that violence, destruction of property, and police harassment is not the way to go, you are perceived as part of the problem or labeled racist. (For the record it is my opinion in the current discussions, that if we speak out about these things we should be careful to be louder and clearer that we condemn the callous death of a black man by a white cop and the fact that some of that rage, even if the actions are wrong, is a symptom of a real and deeper cultural problem needing to be healed. There may well be a problem there if we can’t. At the same time, can’t we acknowledge there are other issues too without distracting from the main issue?). It is also hard to sift through all the noise, agendas, and people abusing and taking advantage of the situation for ulterior motives verse those at the end of their rope lashing out feeling their voices are not being heard, and nothing changes or nothing else works to get people’s attention. There are examples of both negative and very positive peaceful protests. There are also examples of politics on both sides, but also very faithful Gospel responses. There are many good cops and some who abuse their power. It just seems culturally, we are bent on pushing one narrative to the exclusion of all others and not allowing for any nuance or common ground on both sides. Why is this? What can be done about this?

I don’t have all the answers. But, all that to say, at the end of the day, I hope we can each learn something beyond where we started in our views, opinions, or despite political leanings. There is a way to hear others out, strengthen relationships (instead of destroying and dividing further) even if we still come away not fully agreeing. Also, if we never dive deeper into issues and others experiences, except becoming more entrenched in our predetermined views/cliches/experiences, how can we ever grow as a people, emphasize with one another, love one another, and gain a deeper appreciation for others and their cultural dynamics even if, or especially when, different from ours?