Allow me to begin with an honest confession. I have hidden behind “the Gospel”. For the majority of my 18 years of ministry I have used “the Gospel” as a cop out to avoid weighing in on uncomfortable, open ended, gray and controversial issues. I justified the muting of my voice by saying my responsibility is to speak to the hearts of people and bring them in contact with Jesus, not to address societal topics and circumstances. The problem with this thought process is that so much of what happens in society pertains to the hearts of people. In many ways I have been a coward and a self-preservationist. I used the Gospel as an excuse to sit out cultural issues. While I have no intention of being overtly controversial, I am convinced the prophetic mantle upon the church demands us to be a voice in hours of pain, injustice and wrong doing. If the Kingdom of God is about making wrong things right, we have a responsibility to speak to and contend with what we see in the world.
To say the activity in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend was horrific is a severe understatement. Countless others throughout the sphere of mainstream media, social media and from Sunday pulpits have lamented the tragedy, condemned racism and made strong challenges to the American population. In the last 48 hours I have read very little that has caused me to pause in disagreement. It seems the vast majority of our nation is on the same page today, and once again we are presented with the opportunity to have uncomfortable conversations…the type of conversations which have the capacity to lead to true healing. Below are some of my personal observations of the chaos.
1. While I cannot identify with the extremism in the streets of Charlottesville, I am once again forced to search my heart for any hint of racism.
My friend David Hertweck said it this way, “One outworking of a gospel centered life is that the public sins of
others cause us to examine our own hearts instead of immediately judging and
condemning theirs.” Before I raise my ire and aggressively denounce the thinking and behavior of those raging in racism, I must bear the responsibility of giving full access to Holy Spirit. Do I harbor prejudice in my soul? Do I give safe haven to illegitimate thoughts about those of different tribes and color? Did Ferguson, MO anger me more than Charlottesville, VA? We all would love to say “no” to those questions, nonetheless the questions must be posed with heartfelt introspection. Am I part of the healing or the hurting?
2. Black Lives Matter
This statement is 100% true. To my white friends, for a moment, try to strip away the high-level politicizing of any and everything today. Forget about the liberal and conservative agendas. Allow yourself to acknowledge that within every sincere idea there are those who manipulate and pervert it for personal gain. There are people in every walk of life who can ruin a good thing. For a moment suspend what you know about protests in the streets and angry rhetoric, and hear the phrase “black lives matter”. The default response of white, conservative America has been “All Lives Matter”. I contend that “All Lives Matter” is a frequently illegitimate response. While the statement is without a doubt true, the silent motives of why we are saying it matter substantially. If it is uttered with hostility, frustration, anger and anything else other than love, it is pointless and illegitimate. Whether this is true of you or not, for many it is a cheap cover up for prejudice. It seems hollow in the realm of empathy and compassion. When the phrase “black lives matter” is used, our response should be “yes, unequivocally yes.” To say yes is not an endorsement of the purveyors of division within a political movement. Our agreement does not validate those who wreak havoc in volatile protest. Nor does our yes diminish us or those of another race. It is the simple acknowledgement that yes, the life of a black man, woman or child matters…beautifully and immeasurably. If someone does use the phrase “Black Lives Matter” with racist undertones we would do well to be mindful of Jesus who did not defend himself in the face of being despised and rejected. He received it as a cup from his Father. We have no control over what is in someone else’s heart, nor can we take hold of their intentions. However, we are responsible for stewarding our own soul well. Ultimately, I return to #1, does my bristling at “Black Lives Matter” identify prejudice, division or pride in my heart? It is certainly a question we owe ourselves to ask.
3. Blaming government is an irresponsible rationalization.
Social media (especially Twitter) is a cesspool of blame, fault finding and outright division. Have we paused to consider how our vehemence and pointing of fingers fuels the dark side of mankind? If racism is in the heart of man, what would logically agitate its outburst? Division and blame. Division either validates and emboldens wicked thinking or incites defensiveness. The more we get caught up in the divisive rhetoric of our present political climate, the more we perpetuate the treachery of Charlottesville. To some degree, if we have participated in the angst ridden, passing of blame pervasive in social media, we have contributed to the hostility manifest in the streets of that Virginian college town as well as places like Ferguson.
Despicable moments such as the one witnessed this past weekend present us with an opportunity. In my life I have come to the realization that the first step to becoming a hero is to identify all the ways I could be the villain. I can stick my head in the sand and ignore the obvious because it doesn’t directly affect my life. I can shout loudly along with the crowd about how horrible things are and how we need justice, and I probably should. Or…I can introspectively search my heart, and in doing so become an increasing reflection of God’s Kingdom…the better way. The real way to be human. The antithesis of the hate spewed on the streets of Charlottesville.