As you read this, I would like you to know that it was written prior to Trump becoming our President elect.
In Leaves Reinhold Niebuhr wrote “if a gospel is preached without opposition it is simply not the gospel which resulted in the cross.” This sentence wrecked me when I read it. Even though I’m not sure what label I would place on myself, I grew up with the Jesus message permeating every facet of life. That’s what happens when you grow up in the Panhandle of Texas. This past Sunday in a group called “Bridge to Racial Unity” that I attend at our church, a question was posed. It asked what we feel that we need to do better in regard to racial issues. My answer, as I look back on it now, was a mediocre cop-out at best.
For over a year now I’ve felt that I need to be more involved in matters of social injustice. There is a discontent and anger within my spirit for how the christian population as a whole is looking past these matters and not dealing with them head on but rather simply discussing them. Some are being vocal, but most are not and very few are actually involved, getting their hands dirty in the trenches.
These words came out of my mouth at the group, “I feel I need to be more vocal. I mean, I’ve been vocal on social media but not in physical life, and I tend to back down on saying or doing what I feel convicted to do.” It sounded like a good conviction, and it is a genuine conviction but the reality is that I don’t need to just speak out about matters of injustice when it comes to racism, but I need to actually be involved in the change.
Niebuhr spoke a good game but his critics will tell you that he wasn’t really involved physically when it came to matters of race relations, especially when it bucked the system. He preached a hell of a message but didn’t follow it up in his physical life. This is me… right now. I’m afraid to buck the system and I’ve never been afraid like this. So why now? Why am I scared to fight the fight? What fear is driving me to stay silent and not be involved like I should.
I hate the way our country is going. I hate that it’s so divided. I hate that social media has escalated issues. I hate the fact that people are now more open with their racism and actually feel validated by the men they see running for high office. I’m grieving for my church, for the people I see more fear than ever in their eyes and for my kids.
I also see hope in those very eyes often filled with fear.
I see passion in the spirit of people rising up ready to fight for those who the system has pushed down for centuries.
I’m thankful for all of it because I now know where people actually stand on issues.
I can learn how to be involved.
I can use social media as a kicking off point for what the spirit of the Divine is moving in me to do, who it’s urging me to fight for and where I need to serve.
We, as a nation, have been wearing a mask. All of us. We have not been truly honest about how racism effects us. Whether we have experienced it, taken part in it, or been oblivious to its existence, it is alive. For some it’s to our benefit and we experience the blessings of our generational lineage. For others it’s the systemic pitfalls that await us unless something drastic changes. For many it’s living under this idea that we as a nation are post-racial but we are far from it.
I have to decide that if I’m going to preach this message of equality and try to educate people on systemic racism, then I must live it out in my physical life as well. I must become an activist. If not, then what’s the point?
It’s like a coach telling a high school athlete that they need to do this workout, and to work hard but the coach is 150 pounds overweight and is unwilling to sprint 400m but screams at the athletes when they don’t do it to his “standard”. The coach feels he has the right to yell and demand excellence because he is the authority, he was once an athlete and he once did it well. The athlete sees the package presenting this harsh message urging him to be his best but the package doesn’t match the contents of message. What the athlete probably sees is an old man who once lived this life and even if he knows what he’s talking about he has left st credibility because he no longer lives it.
If all I ever do is be “more vocal” I’ve failed my brothers and sisters of color.
I must stand with them.
I must speak when people won’t listen to them but might listen to me because of my skin color.
I must not be afraid of the repercussions.
As Niebuhr said, if there is no opposition to the gospel I preach, it’s not the revolutionary gospel of Christ.
Speaking out for change against social justice issues in America will cause many to hate me, not talk to me, to consider me too controversial, but if it helps one person see what people of color, immigranrs, the LGBTQ community and women endure on the daily, its all worth it. If someone experiencing oppression feels less alone, less hated and more loved, honored and respected, I will take that risk every time.
Whichever candidate wins the Presidency, my life is already different. I will be poised and ready to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters of color.
My kids have been heavy on my spirit recently. I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason they are on my heart so heavily is because I’m fearful for what their future looks like. On the flip side, I’m honestly excited. I’m excited because they might get to see social change – meaningful social justice happening. Not only will they possibly see this happen but I pray they see their parents actively participating in those marches and protests. I can tell them to love people but if they never see me stand up for those beaten down by the system, what kind of love is this exemplifying anyway?
Whether it ends up being Hillary or Trump, change is coming.
May we join our brothers and sisters with self sacrificing love.
May our hearts break for the oppressed.
May our souls not allow our feet to stand still.
Grace and Peace