If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. – James 4:17
If you’ve followed me for any length of time on social media, Twitter most especially, than you know the journey I have been on. Maybe you are on the same one. Maybe you have appreciated some of the things I have RT’ed or articles I have shared. Or maybe you think I’ve gone off the rails. Maybe you think I’m speaking about things I have no business speaking about, because I’m a Christian novelist and it’s not my place. Maybe you think I’m being divisive. Maybe you think I’m being annoying.
I’m not sure where you fall on that spectrum. All I can tell you is what I know …
Isaiah 58:9 calls us to remove from our midst yokes of oppression wherever we find them.
Friends, God has been opening my eyes to a yoke of oppression in our midst and it would be sin if I did not do something about it.
This is why I speak. This is why I will continue to speak.
My heart burns within me. My heart breaks, too.
It breaks for so many in the black community, who are and have been living under a yoke of oppression.
It breaks for so many in the white community, who are and will roll their eyes at that statement. Especially Christians.
Oh Church, I can’t even explain to you the burden I feel in light of this reality.
The word God pressed upon my heart for 2017 was LISTEN.
And as I listen, there is a dissonance that disturbs me to my very soul.
So many black brothers and sisters in Christ, crying out until their voices are hoarse, while so many white brothers and sisters go about their day as if nothing at all is amiss. The disconnect is so loud and startling, it puts a chill in my bones.
Too many of us are living in ignorance. I fear too much of that ignorance is apathetic and willful. I fear too much of that ignorance is resentful and defensive. I fear too many ears are plugged, too many hearts are hardened. I fear too many identify the “noise” from the black community and willfully tune it out before they ever listen to the message. And I fear the consequences – both earthly and eternal.
With that said, I present to you a mash-up of voices I’ve been listening to, and this is just a small, small portion, with some quotes and links to specific articles and eye-opening threads on Twitter.
I pray you will listen, too. I pray your heart will be softened, and also pierced. I pray that this will be the beginning of an awakening for you and those around you, with ripples of justice that will spread into eternity.
Kyle J Howard, a Christian counselor and theologian currently attending the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“One of the greatest lies our country has embraced is the idea that white supremacy is a demon with swastikas as horns. The truth is, white supremacy looks like a pretty southern antebellum woman. It looks like a refined pastor calling a black man a liberal agitator for insisting that his life matters. White supremacy looks like a white washed seminary curriculum, and an American history class taught only from the perspective of those with power. Finally, white supremacy looks like well-meaning white people ignoring or dismissing black voices.”
I found this article from one of Kyle’s tweets and it absolutely lit a fire under me: “Paul embraced Roman privilege. He embraced it, & used it to serve church, justice, & advance gospel. Same should be done w/White Privilege.”
Kyle defines White Privilege in this article: “White Privilege, for the Christian, is a providential benefit of God that when properly stewarded allows for white Christians to stand uniquely and promote social justice and ethnic reconciliation in a way that others can’t within a prejudicial society.”
“Think of it this way, because I am black; the moment I mention race I am labeled divisive and an agitator. If I speak out against injustice, it is assumed that I have a chip on my shoulder that I need to get over. However, when someone who belongs to the majority culture speaks, one who has the privilege of no preconceived negative assumptions, they are listened to. Yes, they may still be rejected, but they have access to a hearing that I do not due to prejudicial presuppositions.”
This morning, one of Kyle’s tweets pointed me to …
Chanequa Walker-Barnes, theologian, psychologist, and author of Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength
So Let’s Talk About This “Many Sides” Thing: Please follow the link and scroll down to read the entire thread. It is a VERY important concept for white Christians to understand regarding the white Christian’s role (both individually, and collectively) in racial reconciliation.
Here is an aside from me (Katie), but not an analogy original to me: If a woman was being abused by her husband, and she was crying out about this abuse, we would deal directly with the abusive husband. We would not critique the way in which this woman was crying out. We would not tell her how she should feel. We would not dare suggest any rhetoric of “both sides”. Brothers and sisters, it is no different here, and yet SO MANY white Christians are doing this very thing when it comes to the abuse of ongoing, systemic racism in America. It absolutely is an abuse that needs to be reckoned with. If you don’t understand that, please educate yourself by listening to/reading any of the resources I list at the bottom of this post.
Please listen to Propaganda’s Happy 4th of July performance, where I first heard this analogy. It is on fire.
Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy
Facing our Legacy of Lynching from Christianity Today, highlighting Bryan’s work
“More than 4,000 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and the rise of the civil rights movement in the early 1950s. Lynching was a brutal public tactic for maintaining white supremacy, frequently used with the tacit blessing of government authorities. It was a part of my heritage I had never been taught …”
“I was starting to wonder at all the untold history we would rather forget. Of the collective sins we long the most to disregard, America’s tragic history of lynching might top the list. But what struck me on our journey was this: Buried sins cannot be repented of.“
Jemar Tisby, president of RAAN, Reformed African American Network
“White Christians will inevitably ask, ‘But what do we do?’ This question perpetuates the problem. People of color did not create white supremacy; white people did. To ask a racial minority how to solve a problem they didn’t create and one under which they suffer only adds to their burdens.” (please click and read entire article to see four important principles in battling white supremacy)
“Despite their insistence on justice, black Christians who speak boldly about racism and white supremacy often get muted or silenced. We can only infer that the sensitivities of white listeners matter more than the pain of black brothers and sisters.”
Friends, if this does not break your heart, if this does not show you the urgency of the problem and all that is at stake, perhaps the tweet below will …
Latasha Morrison, a leading voice in the fight against human trafficking and founder of Be The Bridge
#hashtag #emptythepews saddening. Reflecting on how many of my friends attended predominantly white churches two years ago… But majority have left because they’ve felt invisible and that comfort was more important for the Pastor.”
If you are hesitant to listen to these voices, may I lovingly but urgently push back with a why? If you are only willing to listen to white leaders in the church, if you are only willing to believe what’s being said by the vast majority of our black brothers and sisters as long as your white pastor gives it the stamp of approval … might this, in and of itself, point to a problem?
Books/Resources for You:
- Pass the Mic, a podcast from RAAN
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith
- 13th, a documentary on Netflix
If you have other resources you have read that have helped you, please share them in the comments.