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Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Being One in Christ

I like writing funny posts.  I want to write about poop and going to the bus in my jammies.  But once in awhile something wells up and it isn’t funny at all.  Sometimes things bigger than my coffee cup are broken.  And then words spill out here.  And this morning I woke up with Katniss’s song from Mockingjay in my head, “Are you, are you, coming to the tree?”  I am, Katniss.

But I’d rather be funny.

My heart is heavy.  Michael Brown.  People keep talking about protesters and “the facts of the case,” and there’s debate about things like character and looting and crime and punishment and witnesses.  People wish we had the event on tape to understand what happened.  Eric Garner.  We do have the event on tape.  I can’t even.

People continue to argue.  But I’m worried we’re missing the bigger picture.  We aren’t listening well.

Ferguson has become a catalyst for a larger conversation, and if we continue to focus on individual points of this one case and winning an argument, we’ll miss out on what it has uncovered.  We have been invited into something big, and as Christians, we have an opportunity and responsibility to walk this well.  We mustn’t ignore it, we mustn’t look away, and we mustn’t relegate the conversation to simply arguing over individual cases.

When Jesus was here, the Pharisees would try to trap him with trick questions all the time, and He had an uncanny ability to strip away the arguments and get to the root of the issue.  We need to follow His lead.  Look beyond cases.  Look beyond riots.  See what’s underneath.

White Christians, are you listening to your black friends?  Do you have black friends?  Are you reading their blogs and following them on Twitter?  As I listen, I’m hearing mamas who are scared for their kids.  I’m hearing law-abiding men and women who have had experiences with the police that I’ll never have.*  We don’t just have one case to argue about.  We have a system.  Last night #CrimingWhileWhite trended on Twittter, and it further revealed a gap in our justice system.  White people posted crimes they committed and how they were treated by police and the mercy they were shown.  It was painful to read, juxtaposed by the lack of mercy shown to black people for similar crimes.  I love mercy, and merciful police officers are wonderful.  And I want mercy and justice for everyone, regardless of race.

People are upset.  Look beyond the riots.  Look beyond the crime.  Crime is wrong.  Smashing things is wrong.  But peer underneath the loud shattering to the anger underneath.  There is anger and frustration and hurt that’s bubbled for decades and centuries and it’s coming out.  We need to make room for lamenting, not crime, but lamenting and protesting.  It makes us uncomfortable, but we need to give people that space.  We can be too quick to silencing, to status quo, to sweeping up under the rug.  That won’t make things change.

This Advent, I’m longing for a King who will deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness in our land.

I want to be for the marginalized and oppressed.  Every time.  As a Christian, I’m for them.  Around the world and here at home, I want to see and I want to ask, “How can I help?”

I don’t want to argue, because I hate arguing.  White Christians, we need to do better than arguing.  I just spent the last month highlighting companies that are fighting for social justice around the world.  They’re doing great things for oppressed, marginalized people.  Last night, I had several conversations about how we can fight social injustice here at home.

As always, I don’t have all the answers (or even half), but I believe that change occurs through relationships.  We are called to something so much bigger than arguing over cases and incidents.  We are called to be reconcilers.  We are called to listen and to hear.  While the people on the news argue with each other, will you do something so radical, so counter-culture with me?  Will you listen?

We need to humble ourselves and lay aside opinions and listen to the pain of generations crying out for justice.  If everyone tries to be right, everyone loses.  We serve a God who wants us to hear this:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Are we acting like we’re one?  If we’re one, then when our black brothers and sisters are hurting and voicing their pain, are we hearing and coming alongside and asking how we can help?  Are we serving and humbling ourselves?  Isn’t that what people who are one do?  Aren’t people who are one supposed to bear each other’s burdens and hurt for each other’s hurt?  And if my black friends are upset, then I want to be upset with them.  I want to understand why.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).

I want to bear with one another in love.  I want to be humble and gentle and patient.  I want to make every effort to keep unity and the bond of peace.  We are bonded to one another.

I was asking myself last night what it looks like to be one in Christ, to bear with one another in love.  Here are a few things I came up with:

Listen to your friends.  If defensiveness or counterpoints start to creep up your throat, take a breath and listen some more.  Hear people’s stories.  I’m convinced that relationships are the catalysts for change.  If you don’t have any black friends to listen to, ask yourself why.  Ask yourself what you can do to move in that direction.

Pray.  Examine your own heart, confess anything that needs confessing, and pray.  Recognize any pushback in your soul.  Pray for our nation, pray over our black friends, pray for our lawyers and law enforcers.  Pray for everybody.

Stand in solidarity.  Don’t turn away.  Ask how you can help.  Stand together.

Amplify.  We don’t need to be a voice for black people.  There are so many wonderful black voices.  Amplify theirs.  Let them talk.

Have hard conversations.  This is one of them.  You guys, I want to write about poop!  I want to joke with my friends.  But we have to engage and have hard conversations.  It’s going to be messy.  I probably haven’t said everything right here, but we need to try and get messy and learn and try again.  We need to be willing to do hard together.  And we need to give each other grace and room to try.


*I love police officers.  There are so many good ones.  I am grateful for their hard work keeping my community safe, putting themselves at risk on behalf of us all.  Police officers and their families rock.  And like all professions, there are amazing, remarkable, exemplary ones, and there are ones that are misguided.  There are systemic issues that need to be addressed.  Hug a police officer.  They are on the front lines in our communities.

 image from Scott James’s The Expected One, this Advent devotional my family’s going through for Christmas