Friday, May 1, 2015

White Christians Respond to Baltimore

It's amazing to me how incredibly oblivious so many white Americans can be at times.  What makes this even more disturbing is that many of these oblivious white Americans also claim to be Christians and actively practice this oblivion in the name of Jesus.

While black men are killed in police custody all over the country under what are, at best, suspicious circumstances, white Christians are arguing over their loss of religious freedom to refuse service to gay couples and whether or not to mandate drug testing on those "freeloading welfare recipients."  They seemed largely unaware or perhaps purposefully ignorant of the situation in Baltimore until a fraction of the thousands of peaceful protestors started reaching the boiling point and jumped on top of police cars.

When 4,000 people peacefully protest a horrendous death in police custody, the white Church finds nothing to take note of, but when a couple hundred desperate teenagers burn a few businesses and start erupting out of desperation from not being heard, finally there is a response.  Is it outrage at the lack of justice on behalf of these groups?  No.  Is it sorrow for the death of Mr. Gray?  No.  What finally reached the attention of the oblivious white American Church?  Property damage.  What message does this send to the black churches around us?  What message does this send those troubled and desperate teenagers in Baltimore?  Your lives don't matter to us.  Nothing that happens to you will demand our attention, but if you start becoming violent and damaging property we will condemn you loudly.  We will assume you have horrible parents and are "thugs" and "animals."

If we are to take the Gospel seriously and to follow the Jesus of the Bible, we should care more about the lives of the people around us (white, black, asian, hispanic, latino, etc.) than we do about social awkwardness and property damage.  Perhaps instead of assuming that the people of Baltimore are so stupid they are sub-human, we should examine the context and circumstances that would make people desperate enough to torch their own neighborhoods.

This is not a time for snide remarks or sarcastic, self-righteous social media statuses to validate our self image through the number of likes and comments.  This is not a time to go on the defensive and talk only about the "good cops" out there.  It is a fact that there are corrupt police officers out there.  Not all, but some.  The fact that not all police are corrupt does not negate that some are, and it doesn't change the mind of those who have been hurt by biased and racism police work.  The good police officers should be first in line to stand up for justice and demand honesty and transparency for the safety and protection of everyone.

This is a time for sorrow.  People are hurting from this tragic situation, and the damage that has been done is real and deep.  This is a time for the Christian community to show empathy to a people group that feels like no one is listening and nothing will change.  Whatever your politics are, this has been a year that challenges many people's views on where we are in race relations in 2014/2015.  There are millions of people in this country who have been affected by this on a very personal level.  Rather than being insensitive and unkind to them, this is the time for us to show the love of Christ to people who have experiences that are vastly different from ours.

The Church has been horrible at responding to racial issues for a long time.  This is the time for that to change.  It starts with learning how to discuss sensitive topics like this with compassion and grace, not sarcasm and sneers.  Reach out to the oppressed and the hurting.  Show them that in Christ cultural, ethnic, national, and all other divisions disappear as we converge at the level ground of the Cross.

Praying for Baltimore.

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