Recently, I was reviewing a list of blogs that are part of my routine reading and I came across an essay written by Chase Davis, a friend and fellow pastor in the state of Colorado. Because he is a white man pastoring a rather homogeneous church in an equally homogeneous community, I was interested in his take on the racially motivated divergence that has emerged to the forefront of our country’s dialogues. I was particularly rapt by his “abusive relationship” analogy. Whether or not his readers fully appreciated his imagery, he affectively articulated the circumstances as many African Americans perceive it. I present it here for your consideration and dialogue.
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world
Too often when Americans travel to other countries, we carry the same arrogant attitude we have at home to them. We think we know best. We think Fahrenheit is best and inches are the answer. We try to fix their problems by providing answers to questions they’re not asking. This is foolish. We should recognize the same thing in our lives at home. We should know that we don’t know best. In a situation like the one in Ferguson, Anglo-Americans should assume that we don’t know best. We should assume that we don’t understand and we should seek to understand. We should spend more time listening to understand. Until you can accurately say you’re listening to what they’re feeling, you should continue to listen, ask questions, and seek to understand.
The loudest people are often the ones that draw the most attention. That’s why people in Boulder, CO are typically seen as liberal atheists even though they are one part of the city. We should discern and be wise with what we see portrayed on screens designed to profit off of drama. The reality of any situation is exponentially dramatized by every media platform bent on profiting from likes, clicks, and households.
In many ways, the cultural rift between Anglo-Americans and African-Americans can be compared to that of two people in an abusive relationship. Imagine if you had been abused by someone in a trusted relationship. For years, they took advantage of you and hurt you. They created a hostile environment, which ensured your suffering. Then, one day they told you, “Hey, let’s just be friends, sorry about all that, we don’t have any problems between us.” Then, when you acted out and had some poor reactions to recurrences of abuse or what felt like it, they tell you “you’re being dumb,” “stop it, be more mature.” This would seem calloused and insensitive. In the same way, when we see what appear to be over-reactions, we should recall why these reactions have occurred in the first place. We should empathize.
For many years, African-Americans in the United States have been abused, put down, and taken advantage of systemically. There has been judicial discrimination, systemic poverty perpetuated by economic policies (from the left and right), which continue to create an underclass. While Anglo-Americans living today may not have participated directly in the systemic mistreatment of African-Americans, we should recognize that our ancestors did. We should remember what our families have done to other families. We should repent of what our families represent and how we continue to agitate a very real problem with our silence, ignorance, and calloused hearts.
The only thing that can produce true reconciliation is the gospel. Every other attempt to fix the situation will result in injustice. Too many people are calling for righteousness where there must be a proclamation of unrighteousness. The gospel must be declared and the Holy Spirit must give new life. When we rely on government systems or non-profits to alleviate a divide, which can only be remedied by the gospel, we do the people involved in the situation a great injustice.
Everyone wants justice. The gospel applies for Anglo-Americans in that we can find forgiveness and wisdom at the cross. We can humble ourselves before our brothers and sisters and seek understanding because we have a God who has done the same for us. Apart from the gospel, attempts to do so will be insincere. For African-Americans, the gospel declares that the most unjust event in human history, the one innocent man dying on behalf of the unrighteous, procured redemption for millions. The gospel declares that pain and suffering and injustice are real. And, that there is a remedy. For my Anglo friends, we should weep with those who weep. If we are unable to do this, then we must consider if we really know the God we worship.
The deeper the pain, the darker the skies, the better the gospel can be applied. We must seek reconciliation through the good news that Jesus forgives us and reconciles us to him so that we can be reconciled to one another. Radical racial reconciliation MUST be sought after and until that reconciliation is found in the good news that God saves sinners, it will not be found. Reparations and false justice won’t solve the deep wounds that exist.