I started my morning by having a phone conversation with my long-time best friend. She is hilarious. She is kind and thought-provoking and genuinely cares about people. Not just about people, but she goes deep. She wants to know about what makes people work the way they do. She studies personalities and loves understanding what makes people ‘tick’. If I make a statement about anything I say I believe in, or think, I know I gotta have it thought out and be able to articulate it because my girl is gonna ask me some questions! And I love her for it! She has taught me to look deeper. She has taught me to take an interest in things, both within me and within others. She has taught me how to engage in life and in relationship with others.
She also is a black woman.
My thoughts have turned to her often over the last week. I have wondered about how she is doing through all of this. I have thought about her family, her heart, her perspective. I’ve thought about my other dear friends who I “do life with” on a regular basis who are also African-Americans. Men and women whom I adore greatly, and whom I am honored to serve our community with and whom I also submit to, as two of them are Pastors in our church.
I don’t usually get involved in “political” issues on a public forum or social media. You’ve heard me say before that, though I have strong opinions, I never want to come across as “closed-handed” on issues that are not gospel. The thing is, and the reason I can not remain silent and am using this platform to voice my heart on this matter is that I do not see a divide here between it being a social/spiritual issue. It is my spiritual faith, my doctrinal belief, my adherence to the Bible and teachings of Jesus that have stirred a great brokenness and passionate lamenting over what has befallen our nation, not just recently, but systemically.
What grieves my heart is what I have seen and heard time and time again by people responding to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (and all those proceeding) – “I am withholding my judgment until I hear the facts”.
Here is the fact: A man died.
A man was killed. A man was shot dead in the streets with no one holding his hand, no one saying goodbye. A man was taken from his family. Over and over again, a black man was struck down. This should cause something. This should stir something. How has the church become so callused as to say, “Once I hear the rap sheet, once I hear the cops’ perspective of how it went down, once there is an investigation, then I’ll decide if this slain man deserves my lament. THEN I’ll decide if he deserved to die in this way. THEN I’ll decide if we should be sad about what is going on.” My friends… no.
This has caused much tension in my soul. I have cried my way through the last several days as I’ve been searching for the church to respond with compassion. I’ve been searching for the ones who will pour the ash on their heads and tear the sackcloth from their chest. I’ve found a few. But I have been pained by many, many more. Where are you, Church? Where are the ones who can look at the grief of the Black community and grieve with them? Where are the ones who will acknowledge the fear that has flooded the lives of their children with groans of empathy? We need more of you. We need you to not be silent.
When I say, “Church”, I mean the church at large. I mean all of those who have put their faith in Jesus. Where are you? Where do you stand? Is it with the oppressor – the ones who refuse to believe that there is a racial divide in our land, a system that is tainted with prejudice and perpetuates a cycle of “these ones are lower” – or with the oppressed? When the woman caught in the very act of adultery was brought before Christ and people (the religious) were demanding her death, what did He do? He asked for the blameless to be the first to condemn her. In that crowd, in any crowd, Christ was the only one blameless. He was asserting that it is His job, and His job only to cast judgment on the sinner. She was, according to the law of the time, fully guilty. Inarguably guilty. And yet, Jesus put all her accusers on the same level. Jesus put them in their place by saying, “if you are better than her, then you can cast a stone”. He was filled with grace and mercy and told the woman “Neither do I condemn you…”
I do not care if Alton Sterling had a criminal history. I honestly care not one bit. In the moment he was gunned down, he was not acting criminally, and he was not given the benefit of the doubt, let alone due process. The problem I have is watching his son break down on national television crying out for his daddy who is never coming home. I don’t care if Philando Castile fit the description of an armed robbery suspect. I don’t care if he had a weapon resting on his leg. The problem is that he was tried, sentenced, and executed on the spot. The problem is that there are so many who claim to love Christ who are saying that if it was between Philando and the officer, the officer deserved to live more.
I am not anti-cop, by any means. The problem is not with police officers. It is a scary, heavy weight they bear and I am thankful for them. They are called to serve our community and I refuse to believe that we would be better off without them. Do not swing from one side of prejudice to another. We cannot heal the wounds felt by one community by inflicted wounds on another. The problem is much bigger than a profession.
The problem is that if that were me, if I had been killed on the spot, my ‘rap sheet’ (the sins of my past) would be just as condemning. If someone had taken me out last year, when I was at the lowest I have ever been, those people who withhold their judgment would certainly not lament over my death. Maybe I would get a little sympathy because I am a white mom of 5, but Alton didn’t seem to get much for being a black dad of 5.The problem is that there are far too many who are outside of the situation stepping up and casting stones. The problem is that there are too many names of the slain. There are too many years of a society that has assigned levels of humanity to people groups based on ingrained patterns of sin. The sin of our forefathers is certainly resting on their children’s, children’s, children.
What does it really mean to “withhold judgment until the facts come in”?
It means that you are withholding your sorrow. It means that you are withholding your brokenness. It means that this person is not worth your “softness”. It means that you are waiting to decide if the sins of one’s past justify you remaining in your privileged seat and saying, “Yeah… he had it coming”. Even if you throw in a line of “Shooting like that was probably bad…” or ,”It probably could’ve been handled better” to pacify the part of you that cringes when you hear the story, you are still choosing to stand with the oppressor.
I am tired. I am frustrated. I am confused by the masses of people who will carry on in their Facebook lives making posts about what their cat did today and expecting that others will join with them in whatever way they are supposed to feel about it, but when an entire people group is saying “THIS IS HAPPENING TO US!! HELP US!! CARE ABOUT US!!” all they are met with is, “All people are going through something. Doesn’t that matter? Don’t play the race card and expect the world to bend. You make your own choices.” But mostly I am well aware that if at any point I choose to disengage, to close my eyes, to wait it out, to not be bothered by the argument anymore, I can! I can go about my life and choose to not hear the cries of the oppressed. That is the very definition of white privilege. I don’t have to be bothered. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to be aware. BUT I am CHOOSING to stay in it. I am CHOOSING to stand with those who are being forced to their knees while wondering if they will ever stand again. I choose to because Jesus chose to.
1Again the word of the LORD came to me: 2“Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.
6“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
Friends, I urge you, check where you stand. Check the people you are locking arms with. Are they displaying the compassion of Christ? Are they the ones who mourn with the mourning? Are they the ones who beg for the wisdom and knowledge of God to guide them through the toughest of times? Church, I urge you to engage. I urge you to be willing to break with the broken just because you trust that Jesus was broken for them. Do not look down from an elevated place and wait. Too much time has passed with a silent, waiting Church. I do not speak as if I am outside of the Church. I am stirring even myself into action. I am repenting for all the years that I didn’t care to understand and sat silently unaware. No more. Let us look to Christ. Let’s follow Him to the highways and the byways and partake in a glorious banquet under the covering of our Father’s house. Together. Let’s be together.
I love you all….