To my White Christian friends, family and community: Your silence is a vote for the status quo. Your voice speaks loudest when you don’t. The debt of slavery in America continues to accrue real and tragic costs – paid in deposits of black freedom, black futures & black lives – as interest compounds. Cowardice has a cost and Black America is tired of paying the bill.
The bible teaches us faith without action is dead. That loving me, your brother, is one of God’s greatest commands. When you see a need you respond by meeting it. The bible asserts unity in faith is the very language of God’s love. Our allegiance is in him, not our skin, gender, country or political preference. The bible shows us that none of us will ever be good enough on our own. That all have sinned and Jesus’s life is the only suitable sacrifice because his blood was the only worthy weapon. The gospel is grounded in the reality of our own fragile thoughts, ideas and feelings submitting to our Creator’s original design.
When people are hungry we give them food, not hashtags. Racism is the only issue we’re satisfied to solve with social posts. We wage wars for oil, boldly asking God’s blessing as we kill to control another country’s resources. We fight for freedoms we never intend to use, defending man-made borders because we can. In America, Christians preach, pray and protest to protect their way of life before doing the same for an actual life.
Conformity is not a calling. Even the evils of racism can be redeemed for his glory. Jesus is not showing up to do the things he already commanded us to do in faith. My silence has been selfish and so has yours.
Racism is Not An Accident
After spending the last 4 years reading, teaching, speaking, crying and hoping for change, I’ve prayerfully reached a conclusion I’d prefer to find incorrect.
Racism in America isn’t some elaborate Rubik’s cube we’re intellectually incapable of solving.
It’s not a cluster of cancerous cells tangled around our country’s vital organs, rendering it hopelessly irremovable.
It’s not a novel strain of a virus for which we have no immunity or information.
And contrary to revisionist opinions, racism is not a historical marker of past-tense mistakes we’ve since moved beyond.
To the White American, racism is your birthright. An inherited benefit you are born into. This automatic endowment affords believers and unbelievers alike the illusion of innocence while perpetually benefitting from the racist systems you inherited, whether you know it or not.
The origins of racism were more than evil, they were economic. Just as family names, titles, possessions and positions are passed down from one generation to the next, American racism is a precious heirloom conveniently renewed for the comfort and prosperity of primarily White men.
Regrettably, when it comes to acknowledging and dismantling this birthright, not only do professed Christians largely resemble non-Christians, but in many communities our churches provide a breeding ground for white supremacy to flourish unchallenged.
Like a dirty dish left soaking in water, these visible and verifiable truths sit in plain sight – in public records and reports, in real stories and statistics – while we debate who’s turn it is to clean the kitchen. White Christians, this is your kitchen, your mess and it’s always been your time to clean it up.
Racism is deliberate, effective and deadly but I serve a Savior who specializes in scandalous restorations.
Jesus Was Not Silent
We worship a hero with holes in his hands. Jesus surrendered his birthright – his privilege and position – to become an advocate for our freedom and the singular author of our faith. He rejected his right to be first. When he traded his throne for a cross, his temporary reward for obedience was a tomb. But his permanent prize is you and me – his church – and his death provided the heart transplant we needed to have eternal life.
The bible collectively calls the church his bride and we believe the day is coming when our donor, Jesus Christ, will return for the recipients of his sacrifice. Faithful followers are all invited to the wedding, not because we’re worthy, but because he chose us.
I wasn’t born into his family but he grants me the rights, privileges, access and freedoms of a full-blooded family member. This wasn’t accomplished solely by words, it was achieved through work. We don’t doubt if Jesus’s heart is in the right place. He gave it to us to show just how much we’re worth. His rejected birthright has become your benefit.
White Christians, the day you decide to fully live your faith, love your brother and serve our God, racism in America won’t just go into remission, it will be eradicated. The very notion of white supremacy loses its gravitational pull when the gospel of Jesus becomes our compass. The privileged will repent. The silent will shout. The ignorant and unaware will act. Hate will go into hiding and the very country that was built on it will be healed.
There will come a time when the faith you profess must become the future you possess. When your beliefs are proved in deeds, not opinions.
But we’re too busy trying to look like Jesus to actually look for him. Jesus is love, grace, truth and mercy. Jesus was never neutral. In the bible, when he walked pass the fruitless fig tree he didn’t celebrate its leaves, he cursed its lack of productivity. There is no “e” for effort when it comes to equality. Not while our sisters and brothers are killed, jailed, poisoned, abused and forgotten. Not while you benefit from an inheritance that should have been rejected long ago.
Jesus’s purpose is freedom. He promised his presence would bring peace but he also warned the impact of that presence would feel like a sword, potentially separating households and communities in the pursuit of God’s will, not our own. Your allegiance to Christ will cost you something. If you’re living comfortable and conflict-free in a country where people of color comprise half the prison population, which side of Jesus’s sword do you think you’re on?
If the American Church really became the Body of Christ we would unite in revealing and removing white supremacy from every corner of the country, starting in our homes.
We’re called to be separate not divided. This is not a White versus non-White issue, it’s a gospel one. God warned the very first Christ followers against deception that causes division among believers. They listened to correction, repented for indiscretions and submitted their plans to his truth. This unity with one another was the very light that led others to Christ, even when it separated them from political and cultural powers that didn’t serve his.
I pray you hear my heart. I too have been silent far too long. I’ve held my tongue, kept my calm and turned the other cheek so long it’s become numb. The Black men I admire most didn’t confront racist systems head-on either. Like me, they were taught to tip-toe through the broken glass of our country’s past and cross their own finish line. As Black men we often win by overcoming the hurdles we feel powerless to remove. We are strong. We need help.
Structural racism is a mess I didn’t make but I refuse to pass this baton to my son and daughters without first clearing a path smoother than the one I traveled.
The “Good Enough” Gospel
The very foundation of our faith is an acknowledgment of sin – the death penalty we pay for crimes we continue to commit. My adoption into God’s family isn’t dependent on me breaking out of my own jail cell, rather him breaking in. My sin becomes inadmissible in judgment and invisible to God. He doesn’t use it in court against me because his son died on the cross for me.
Yet, there is a version of the gospel where sitting quietly on the sidelines of injustice is applauded and encouraged. This “good enough” gospel existed before, during and after Jesus’s life here on earth. It makes reasonable allowances for oppression, racism, superiority and generational sins as long as there are politicians and policies to enable them. When the patriotic messiah of this version of the gospel – “easy Jesus” – witnesses hate, he responds in thoughts and prayers but rarely renders aid. Just like the American church, he’s the “good enough” Samaritan.
This Jesus can be found in your brain but you won’t find him in the bible. Furthermore, if your “easy Jesus” has room for spectators – admiring justice issues but never raising a hand, vote or voice in defense to demolish them – I submit the real Jesus may not know you.
My experience has taught me this. My White Christian family is more comfortable supporting me privately than confronting racism publicly.
You love me but you’re also realists. Too respectable to be racist but too apathetic to be anti-racist. Too conservative to be concerned with the very problems you directly and indirectly profit from. So you offer affirmation for my pain yet do nothing to prevent it. Publicly tweeting for change while retreating from the actual process of changing.
You are deacons and elders, ministers and leaders, friends and brothers, wives and worship leaders. You are not racist, but your inaction allows it to thrive. You are too wise, too patient and too educated to fret about race relations in a country that once had a Black president.
Middle Seat Christians
Being silent about racism doesn’t mark you as racist but it does reveal where your heart has been all along. You occupy the middle seat. This prime position allows you to worship with me on Sunday, ignore my scars on Monday and benefit from oppression on Tuesday.
White supremacy, terrorism and nationalism have always multiplied under the watch of White Christians in the middle seat. When you opt out of wrestling with or fighting against racism – either via some misplaced notion of noble silence, learned inaction or convenient ignorance – you fertilize the sin you were created to weed out.
If an idol mind is the devil’s workshop then a quiet Christian is his co-pilot.
Hate grows in the dark. Racist systems have thrived for centuries while White Christian wealth, influence and power has prospered. You don’t lack information. You lack concern.
It’s not an awareness issue. Public words without work is simply indifference camouflaged as outrage. When my son was diagnosed with a stomach condition, we researched options, sought medical advice, prayed for healing and ultimately submitted to the process of getting him healthy again via surgery.
Our faith started with prayer but it didn’t end there. We weren’t still, silent, uninformed or indifferent. We educated ourselves and acted in his interest. Our faith worked because we worked in faith.
When Jesus saw our sin condition he didn’t just recite scriptures or proffer prayers. The very son of God decided to reject his crown for a cross. It hurt.
Silence is selfish. It’s time to unfollow the fears we inherited and build the future we’re called to create. Together.
I pray Holy Spirit allows you to read these words with the love in which they were written, the unity in which they are intended, and the Godly grace in which I believe they were given weeks ago. Where clarity lacks, grant me the charity of comprehension, the wisdom of correction and the promise of reconciliation. Let these thoughts be pearls shared in confession not stones cast in judgment.
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