I have ministered in black churches, and attended a church that was predominantly black, and I have a black son-in-law. We have black faculty and students in our university. I have never experienced a problem in any of these relationships, so it has been hard for me to understand the level of intensity we see sweeping our nation.
My first response was, the only solution I know is the Bible’s command, “Honor all people” (1 Pet. 2:17). That includes those we disagree with. Obviously this is not being done in the news media or among politicians, and even denominations and Christians have trouble honoring those they disagree with. More often than not, they call people heretics. Not cool! I know of no way to get people to honor others outside of a full-fledged spiritual revival that brings them into direct encounter with the Lord on a daily basis. This way, He can speak to them and tell them daily, "Together, we will honor each person you meet today."
Of course, the other big command the Bible gives us is to love all people. By this they will know that we are His disciples, if we love one another (Jn. 13:35; 1 Jn. 4:7). So the very least we are to do is to honor and love all whom we meet.
I have been sent the links below which have opened my eyes to the enormity of the problem and to at least one possible solution. I want to pass them on to you. I did not know any of the information in the two videos below. I learned a lot and it has sensitized me to “CARE.”
You may know of Phil Vischer (the creator of Veggie Tales and the awesome "What's in the Bible?" series). Here he is in a 17-minute video reviewing the steps of blacks' freedom from slavery until today. There is also a transcript of the video including citations for the statistics he shares available here.
For those who would despair and say there is no easy way to change the hearts of people and make them honor and respect others, there is a group that is working with police departments to defuse volatile situations. Their founder has this TED talk: How we can make racism a solvable problem — and improve policing.
My kids are leading the way for me in tackling this subject, so now let's hear from them...
For a long time, I've looked at this issue as being almost purely political. Up until the last few weeks, it's seemed that this is just another manifestation of the left versus right struggle that is a constant part of life in America. And while it is still obvious to see that the solutions being offered by various people often have a definite political bent depending on who is promoting them, that can't be used as an excuse to ignore the legitimate grievances and the great suffering that our black brothers and sisters endure. This is more than just politics.
Now is not a time to be comfortable in our perceptions and beliefs about the state of race relations. Now is not a time to defend what we've always felt and thought. The eyes of white America are being opened to things that we have not been willing to see for far too long. Don't push away from this. Lean in and let God soften your heart and be touched by the suffering and the injustice that is all around us.
My wife and I started out by reading White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. This is a hard book to read. It challenges us as white people on so many levels. I absolutely do not endorse everything said in this book, not the least of which because it is not written from even a weakly Christian worldview. But despite that, it has been extremely helpful and I do recommend it as a good way to gain much-needed insight and different perspectives that many of us have never even been exposed to. God gives revelation to ALL people, even evil kings. If one could not accept, honor and abide by the dream God gave to Pharaoh about the upcoming 7 years of feast and 7 years of famine (Gen. 41) they would likely have starved to death, in their objection that "there is no way I will ever learn anything from a non-believer."
The book we are currently reading is Oneness Embraced. This one is from an uncompromisingly Christian black man who requires every truth to be solidly backed by Scripture. It is intended to be read by all, and does a great job pointing out the areas of strength as well as the blind spots of both the white and black church. This one is highly recommended without reservation (even though I have not finished it yet)!
It is truly sad that a simple statement such as "black lives matter" has become divisive, or even toxic to some people. Here is a good article that helps each side of this understand the other more. Know that a strong affirmation that Black Lives Matter does not require, nor should it even imply, any support for the political organization of that name, or any of the specifically unbiblical positions it espouses. But our love and support for our black brothers and sisters, and the explicit confirmation that their lives absolutely have value to us, should always be louder than our denouncements of specific aspects of an agenda which has been attached to #BLM. Because anything else is putting politics or ideology ahead of love and humanity, isn't it?
My husband and I have been listening to Bishop Joseph Garlington and Bishop T.D. Jakes quite a bit recently to hear what they have to say about these issues. They are anointed men of God, senior statesmen in our faith, and are African American, so we very much wanted to hear their hearts, their experiences, and their Spirit-led perspectives.
Bishop Jakes was invited by Pastor Carl Lentz to speak to his church, Hillsong NYC, about what he would like people to know and understand. He shared many helpful insights and I encourage you to watch the video here. For example, Jakes talked about how his son was recently in a bad car accident. He was more concerned that his son would be hurt by the policemen coming to the scene of the accident than by the accident itself. Tragically, this fear of police brutality is shared by many black pastors I’ve been listening to. I couldn’t agree more when Lentz said, “If this is the hill we have to die on, then so be it. If the Church can’t even get the race issue right, then what are we even doing?”
Another excellent video was a panel discussion with Dr. Caroline Leaf, Christine Caine and other white Christian leaders on The Church and Race. Leaf is from South Africa and Caine from Australia so it was interesting to hear their “international” points of view on these issues. Bishop Jakes talked about how if a black person and a white person commit the same crime, the black person is 7x more likely to be incarcerated for it. I have known for years that blacks, the minority, overflow our prisons as the majority so I (unconsciously or not) put two and two together, biasedly assuming that means black people must somehow be more prone to crime. Wrong interpretation of facts!
Jakes explains, “People of color don’t want special treatment. If we break the law, arrest us. Just please don’t try us, judge us and execute us on the sidewalk.” Repentance is good for the soul and I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. Instead of making excuses and defending what I always thought was right, I’m listening. James 1:19 tells us we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak” and it’s amazing how much we can learn by doing just that.
Steve Furtick (who is white), pastor of Elevation Church, invited his good friend Pastor John Gray (who is black) to share openly and honestly from a godly point of view about race and what’s going on in America. Why is it happening? What can we do about it? Furtick had an inspired quote at the beginning reminding us that “If we celebrate diversity without addressing disparity, it’s hypocrisy.” Letting us all listen in on their poignant and personal conversation on how to Become the Bridge was eye-opening and highly recommended.
I also really appreciated the practical examples Pastor Miles McPherson shared in his message The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation. As a mixed race man who is married to a mixed race woman and is pastor of one of the most racially diverse megachurches in America, he is uniquely qualified to speak specifically and scripturally to this subject.
On the video, and in his audiobook by the same title that I’ve just listened to, he gives an analogy of “Right Privilege.” Approximately 90% of people are born right-handed, and the world is built for them. Everything from school desks to scissors to baseball gloves are all designed for right-handed people. While the majority never thinks twice about any of these things, it definitely makes life much more difficult for left-handed people. (And all the lefties out there shouted “Amen”!)
The story goes that as a left-handed person he needed to get a softball mitt so he could play catch with his kids. This was in the days before Amazon.com and he ended up spending an entire day, driving all over town, going to store after store, until he eventually found one that fit him. Telling his right-handed friend about his exasperating experience, he doubted it. The friend thinks, “It was easy for me to get my mitt. I don’t understand how you could possibly have such a different experience than I did. You must be exaggerating, that can’t be true.”
And so it is with white privilege.
Finally, I’ve been having meaningful conversations with my friends of color and they are encouraged because this is the first time they have felt like white people have actually wanted to discuss these issues with them. The first step to addressing any problem is to acknowledge that we have one. We’ve reached a tipping point where we realize how blind we’ve been. Now that more and more of us are seeing the truth and admitting there is a genuine problem, I'm hopeful that deep healing, true justice, and lasting reconciliation can finally begin.