I don’t consider myself a particularly ‘politically-active’ person. While I have informed opinions on several socio-political issues, I am usually one to hold my peace until my opinion is relevant (which is not that often if I’m being all the way honest).
And I will be transparent enough to admit that part of what plays into my ‘non-politicalness’ is my faith. I believe that while I am entitled to my opinion and to my feelings on an issue, God’s Word and heart trump my feelings and opinions every single time. So as a Christian who wears her faith on her sleeve, my first inclination when faced with a difficult issue is not to ignore my feelings or inclinations altogether, but to first and foremost to seek God’s heart and perspective and allow that to shape and guide my own.
In the last two days two black men were gunned down and killed by police officers. (I won’t bother to add ‘without cause’ because there is no justification whatsoever for men being put down in the way and manner in which these two were). In the last two days, black people have gone to sleep in pain and anguish, and woken up in tears and despair, because these incidents, just two days after America celebrated its independence, are further proof of what has been true for over five centuries: black men may have been created equal, but we do not live the reality of that equality in this country, or anywhere else for that matter. America is a country where children of color are made to sing at school assemblies of a land where their fathers did indeed die, but freedom doesn’t ring as true for them as it does for others.
But because of my faith, in the midst of this police brutality and racial strife, my first inclination was to seek out Christian guidance. To turn to God and to the leaders of the church around the world who have always championed the cause of Christ and justice so vehemently to find answers and comfort and empathy in my time of grief as a woman of color, sick and tired of living in a society where she is considered ‘less than’…
So imagine my surprise to find that a large part of Christendom remained silent.
I waited and waited. For a word. A tweet. A half-hearted Instagram post – anything that would help me deconstruct the complex feelings of grief and anger and resentment and fear that washed over me again and again throughout my day. Or at the very least a word that would help me feel like even if I would never truly belong in the greater society we call America, at least I was part of a community of believers that would champion and stand up for my rights as a human being, created in the image of God and equal to all others. And a lot of what I found was radio silence.
Now this is not a critique of Christianity. But as a church – as the body and representation of Jesus Christ – we must consistently remain critical of ourselves. We are not immune to sin or impervious to wrongdoing – our history of colonialism and persecution and and brutality in the name of evangelism is proof of this. We can’t afford to not speak up when we see injustice. Silence for the church when the black people we worship alongside, and serve alongside and sit next to every Sunday are being gunned down by the very people meant to serve them cannot possibly be an option.
And the silence baffles me even more because just three weeks ago, when an extremist carried out an attack on a gay night club and took innocent lives, the church cried its outrage – and rightfully so. We screamed at the injustice and yelled our disgust and heartbreak loudly all over social media. We prayed and denounced violence and emphasized our support. So I am confused. I don’t know whether it’s that perhaps we as a church have chosen to be colorblind and do not see what is happening racially in our country. Or maybe it’s that we only speak up about social injustice when it serves our liberal Christian agenda (because, man, do we want everyone to know the love of Christ and feel included in his salvation).
You think abusive and unrighteous condemnation from the church hurts? I can tell you now that silence in the face of injustice stings just as much.
Isaiah 1:17 says:
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
In America, black families losing fathers and mothers and being widowed at the hands of police brutality is common stance. When I have to tell a black friend that he will be safe traveling to America and stay alive so long as he doesn’t wear a hoodie, or play with a toy gun in public, or drive in his car, then there is a systematic injustice at hand that needs to be denounced. This is not where the church draws the line and chooses political correctness. As an institution and a community where people go for guidance and instruction and direction, we cannot remain silent.
Black people are broken and in pain, and the church must speak up in order to be a conduit for healing and for God’s love.