It has been another remarkable week. Protests against racism and police brutality continue around the world, and there is a new groundswell of popular interest in and support for anti-racist efforts.
As Christians, we gladly join in these efforts as a simple outworking of the gospel in our cultural context. For the church, to proclaim and embody that “Black lives matter” should be a simple, non-controversial proclamation of the gospel into our specific context. And to work for justice should be a simple, non-controversial outworking of our Lord’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
I hope it’s not a flash in the pan. I’m praying and hoping and learning how to work for the long-term systemic change we need to ensure that we don’t go “back to normal” in a few weeks.
I find myself cautiously encouraged by the mass support we are seeing for justice right now. Mitt Romney marched with Black Lives Matter protesters. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from races. Confederate monuments are coming down all over the US. Branches of the military are banning the display of the Confederate flag. The president of the Southern Baptist Convention (!!) urged members to say “Black lives matter” as an urgent gospel issue. The editor of Christianity Today is calling for Christians to practice restitution (not just repentance) for racism.
As Jemar Tisby has been saying, “Something different is happening this time…”
And while some celebrities and politicians might be jumping on the anti-racism bandwagon only to garner fans or votes, and least ?this? is the bandwagon! As the Apostle Paul said about those who were preaching Christ for false motives while he was in prison, “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice?” (Phil 1:18).
So I’m rejoicing that so many are affirming that Black lives matter right now. I’m also lamenting that it has taken this long. I’m also repenting, because I’m part of the problem. My ignorance and reluctance to stand in solidarity with my Black sisters and brothers in the past has delayed justice.
As I “cautiously rejoice” at what we’re seeing right now, I’m also listening soberly to those who have been in this struggle a lot longer than me who are saying that a lot more is needed. Marching in protests and posting on social media alone won’t bring about the systemic change we need to unravel 400 years of racialized terror and trauma.
Let’s keep repenting and lamenting and praying and hoping and listening and learning how to do the long term work of justice.
This: “ Marching in protests and posting on social media alone won’t bring about the systemic change we need to unravel 400 years of racialized terror and trauma.”
I am encouraged by all the positive signs of change as well, but I’m also conscious of the reality that flag bans and changing laws doesn’t always (doesn’t
Typically??) change hearts. I just wonder if there are any lessons to be learned from history that might help us approach these changes with a posture that invites and challenges prejudice to soften, without causing hearts to harden.
If you’re a confederate flag carrying NASCAR fan right now, I kinda doubt you are looking at all these changes with an open, contemplative spirit. I mean, that would be awesome.
Flags may come down, and on one had it’s hard not to celebrate the encouragement and hope that this brings to so many. But on the other hand, the “why” matters … there is so much more celebration, healing, and progress when someone takes down their flag willingly, vs. being forced to.
Should we just get the “flags down” first, then worry about trying to change their hearts? How do we properly celebrate racial progress via authoritative (top-down) coercion, or do we? The governments and organizations will do what they will, but Jesus’s way of radical change was different. I think we should be cautious about getting excited when the governments and NASCARs of the world seem to be marching in the same direction as Jesus.
Ben Sternke says
Yes, Phil – I agree we shouldn’t think this means the kingdom will be ushered in in a few weeks 🙂 You’re right, people’s hearts need to change.
The other thing that needs to happen, though, is for policy and practice to change. People need to be held accountable for their actions, and this will help greatly to create an environment where people’s hearts could change.
So, for example, I think NASCAR removing the Confederate flag is helpful because it is removing a source of trauma for Black people, and a subtle dog-whistle for racists, which should cause a bit of cognitive dissonance for racists, which could be the beginning of some kind of repentance. Not guaranteed, of course, but at least they aren’t going out of their way to make the racists comfortable any more.
Well said. I thought this was a thoughtful and helpful perspective as well: