Let me be blunt, I’m angry right now! I’m hurt. I feel violated. And moreover, I feel estranged and saddened being so far away from my homeland of Atlanta today! For those of you who have yet to hear, this morning, #WhiteSupremacy violated the Church yet again! White supremacists laid Confederate flags throughout the campus of Ebenezer Baptist Church–which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pastored–and also littered the King Center with them. Now, I want to be explicitly clear, White supremacists are trying to provoke the Black community through their terrorist activities. These are not hate crimes, they are terrorist activities! These malicious activities are premeditated, strategic, and meant to conjure fear, rage, animosity, and destructive activity within the Black community.
Thus, we must be aware that there are powers and principalities manifesting themselves in the form of White supremacy in our nation; they are striving to bring to fruition what #DylannRoof said was his motivation for shooting up Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. where he killed 9 innocent brothers and sisters in Christ! Roof said that he was driven to murder by his desire to reclaim the nation for #Whiteness by “starting a racial war.” While Roof spoke in error because his sole actions were not the start to this “war,” in reality this domestic terrorism predated him. This war on Black bodies, on this continent, began when the first slave touched down on the region’s soil. Nevertheless, while Roof did not start this war, he definitely upped the ante!
In light of all of this, I need all of my family members, my Christian sisters and brothers, especially those who have yet to speak out against racism, who have failed to understand racism as a sin which is in large part the byproduct of our inability to properly disciple our members: to sit with, contemplate, and heed Dr. King’s words today. As White Supremacists sought to tarnish his legacy today, I’m urging us to sit at his feet and be discipled by his words today. I’m highlighting ten quotes from Dr. King that I believe are profoundly helpful and prophetic for the Body regarding this moment in history we find ourselves in.
- The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
- The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
- Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
- The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.
- Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
- An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
- Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
- Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
As followers of Christ, we are called to actively partner with God’s unfolding movement of reconciling and restoring all things, in word and deed. As Christ’s co-laborers, silence and or apathy in the face of the evil presently confronting us is antithetical to the Gospel! Such responses are not options for those whom identity themselves as followers of Jesus. Let me be clear, I’m not specifying how anyone has to respond; I’m simply saying that a tangible, elongated, response is warranted and in fact, required…be you White, Asian, African, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American. This is your issue because this is a Gospel issue!
It’s time for the Church to speak some hard truth, in love! Well, let’s be honest: it’s well past time, but we cannot change the past. Presently we are experiencing a historic onslaught of racial hatred! Black churches are being burnt, shot up, and desecrated; Black people are being re-crucified daily it seems, and historically significant Black Churches are being targeted as public service announcements by White thugs and militants. Today, Ebenezer and the King Center were targeted because they are hallmarks of the Black community; they represent a history of pride, love and resistance. The King Center commemorates the life and legacy of Dr. King, a modern martyr of our faith who gave his life trying to lead us in overcoming the same racial hatred that inspired evil this morning.
Again, let me say that silence is not an option! We can no longer say that this is not our problem or that racism is the problem of isolated individuals. The malady of racism is in the very fiber of our nation’s being. Until we acknowledge and confess this, there will be marginal progress in race relations at best! The Church must confess that racism (and not just racism against Black people) is in the DNA of our nation, and we must then renounce it for the sin that it is and lead the way in modeling what repentance and turning away from this sin looks like.
So I want to offer up a few ways this might manifest itself:
- This can look like you making a commitment to talk as a family (including your children) over the dinner table, discussing the realities of racism in our nation and then moving towards what it looks like to live counter-culturally for Christ.
- This can look like you taking the time to inform yourself about this history and present realities of racism in our nation. (Dr. M. Shawn Copeland, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Dr. James Cone, Rev. Efrem Smith, & Dr. J Kameron Carter are all great sources).
- This can look like you deciding that it’s time for you to begin reading new authors and adopting new sources for the news. (Great authors to consider on the subject are Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Dr. Christena Cleveland, and Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil; a good new source is Democracy Now).
- This can look like you recruiting an intentional small group that will pray and discern with you what the Spirit may be leading you to do as a group in an effort to combat racism within your communal context. This will probably also lead to broader discussions within your congregation on the subject matter.
- This can look like you going to new gatherings of faith and intentionally choosing to commune with believers who you haven’t rubbed shoulders with before. This could take place at national conferences like the Christian Community Development Association, more intimate conferences like Back to the Garden, or in the form of new neighborhood collaborations.
There are a multitude of ways that this could look, but making prescriptions for people instead of encouraging everyone to go before the Lord in prayer and supplication, is dangerous. As uncomfortable as it may seem, trust the Spirit’s promptings. God is faithful, sovereign, and will direct your path; if only you are humble and patient enough to allow the Lord to lead you.