What do we do?
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Outrage is a godly response to injustice. When you are witnesses of a homicide, as we all have been, it is right to cry out in rage. In fact, if the gospel penetrates us deeply enough we will cry out as if the act was against our own child. It feels cozy to sing, “help me to love with open arms like you do, a love that erases all the lines and sees the truth” but it is just a platitude to sing that song and then be unmoved or defensive in the face of injustice. The uncomfortable reality is that the work of loving, the work of justice is hard, painful and messy.
Our world is on fire right now, as it has always been (and as people of color have always told us it is). The difference is that not everyone has felt the heat in the same way. Some communities and people groups have been protected from it while others have lived in the destruction of it for their entire lives. Connection and trust in relationships happen when one heart meets another heart. The thing that will destroy connection and trust in relationships like nothing else is invalidation. Invalidation is when a person’s own experience is all that exists to him or her. Often that person moves to negate, minimize or explain away the other person’s experience, treating it like it is somehow not real or non-existent. If you’ve ever had this happen, you know that it feels terrible.
So here we are, our world is on fire and our brothers and sisters of color are crying out. How will we respond? Here is how I hope to respond with God’s help…will you join me?
In lament we bring our raw emotion to God in prayer, no filters. Below is a list of lament; a list of names of African Americans killed by police since Eric Garner’s death in 2014. This list is, by no means, comprehensive. In reading these names we also acknowledge the ones not included here; knowing that God knows the full list and holds each one in his heart. Each one is a life made in the image of God who is gone now because of violence, oppression and racism. God’s heart breaks, and so must ours. We do not turn away with indifference but we speak each name in sorrow and outrage at the injustice that snuffed out human life:
JOHN CRAWFORD III
WILLIAM CHAPMAN II
VICTOR MANUEL LAROSA
ALBERT JOSEPH DAVIS
BILLY RAY DAVIS
BRIAN KEITH DAY
ASSHAMS PHAROAH MANLEY
KEITH HARRISON MCLEOD
MICHAEL LEE MARSHALL
NATHANIEL HARRIS PICKETT
BENNI LEE TIGNOR
KEITH CHILDRESS JR.
ANTWON ROSE II
CHRISTOPHER WHITFIELD CHRISTOPHER MCCORVEY
MICHAEL LORENZO DEAN
It is not my voice that is most needed right now. It is the voices of people of color who have been doing the work of justice who we all really need to listen to right now. They are the experts. We have lost the art of dialogue in a monologue world. Listening is so rare. Listening with empathy is rarer still. When was the last time you felt truly listened to? This is such a gift. In our marriage class, we teach couples to listen using the RAVE MODEL, which is simply an acronym for:
Reflect back what the person said to ensure you heard them
Affirm the feelings you hear
Validate their experience, and do this with
Let us listen well to our sisters and brothers right now. Let us listen without self-interest and with open hearts.
If you are white, then please join me in being a student of race in America. Do not go to your friends of color and ask them to tell you their experience, to teach you about race (enslaving people of color all over again) but rather take the job upon yourself to learn. Here are a few places to start:
- Follow people of color who are speaking out online and just listen and learn, people like: @austinchanning, @berniceaking, @clintsmithiii, @ibramxk, @rachel.cargle
- Take the time to read books on race written by people of color. A few that have helped me learn more include:
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown
- Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, by Latasha Morrison
- How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X Kendi
- Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude M. Steele
- The Hate You Give (a novel), by Angie Thomas
- Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
- Other books on race: Talking to Strangers, Bloodlines, White Awake, Such a Fun Age (a novel)
God, We confess we have not loved you with our whole hearts; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.
This is a prayer offered by the president of Denver Seminary, or you can write your own.
Have mercy on me, O Lord.
I have blinded my eyes. In spite of the clear evidence of deeply embedded racism all around me, I have looked the other way. Too many have died. Too many have suffered. Too many have been locked out and cast aside. Too many indignities. Too many injustices. And still I looked the other way.
Have mercy on me, O Lord.
I have hardened my heart. Believing the lie that blacks have the same opportunities as whites, I could not allow myself to admit that my life was shaped as much by racism as theirs—mine to benefit and theirs to harm. But it was and it is and it will continue to be. I have cared too little. I have grieved too little.
Have mercy on me, O Lord.
I have silenced my tongue. My voice has not been raised in prophetic rebuke and anger. My feet have not stepped out for justice alongside those who have more courage than I. And in my silence I am an accomplice to bigotry.
Forgive me, O Lord.
I have sinned against you and against those who suffer the evil of racism. Indifference has smothered my soul and snuffed out fleeting impulses for reconciliation. I ask for your forgiveness and I will appropriately seek their forgiveness.
Empower me, O Lord.
I need your strength to step beyond blindness, indifference and fear; to step toward those whom I have sinned against. I make no grandiose promises or plans today for I know how easily these can be made and forgotten. But this I know. I cannot be the same. And I will not.
God calls each of us to use our time, talents, and treasure to do justice. As we listen and learn, let us also be quick to move in acts of service to promote the shalom and flourishing of all people everywhere. That will look different for each person. Let us not love with words alone, but in action and in truth. In the weeks to come we hope to share with you other specific ways that people in our community are acting and invite your participation in church-wide acts of justice, mercy and love.
What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.