by Kyndra McIntosh
Kyndra often leads worship at The Gathering, and has moved us to tears with her voice on numerous occasions. We hope today you are just as moved by her words.
We added another name hashtag this week. And one the week before that, and another in the weeks before that. Ahmaud. Breonna. George. Either they were killed by a system set up to protect them, or denied justice by a system with a history of failing them. Either way, they were someone’s brother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, boyfriend, friend, etc. and now they are gone. Gone with them is the potential they had to be anything other than just another black person, failed by the system.
This morning, I woke up with a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I can’t explain. I was taken back to a few years ago when the nation was in a similar state. As soon as the wounds settled down from an active, anguishing, pain to a dull steady ache (the state in which they remain because they have yet to heal and there isn’t an end in sight) we would see another video. Tamir. Eric. Philando. More black bodies being reduced to national footage, mild outrage and names after a hashtag.
This time, things seem different. Instead of being in a cycle of anger and hopelessness, I am encouraged and thankful to see people speaking out and standing up in ways that I have never seen before. I am floored to see white people denounce white supremacy and acknowledge white privilege. I am humbled to see apologies for years of silence and promises to speak up. I am challenged with invites to open dialogues and questions of how to do and be better. And the fact that all of this is coming from the most surprising of people has put me back in the place of awe at what the Lord can accomplish without our help. But where is the church?
I refrain from calling out the Church because some of the speaking out, encouragement, prayer and understanding has been from people within the body of believers. As I scroll through social media feeds full of ignorance, hatred, encouragement, speaking out against racism, promises of solidarity and anything else related to our current form of brokenness, sentiment from the church is lacking. If we are to be representatives of Christ here on Earth, if we are to implement the gospel in our lives and bring others into the inheritance we have received, how can we be silent when the world needs us most? So where do we begin?
In scripture, we see plenty of times in Jesus’ ministry where He was on a journey with a specific intent only to be stopped along the way to meet a need. Healing, wine, resurrection, restoration. I think in all of the reiterations of the stories in the scriptures, one thing gets missed: Jesus didn’t just heal them, He understood their pain.
We generally throw blankets on issues like racism and homophobia because if our rhetoric is “all we can do is pray” then we take no personal risk, the box can be checked, and we get to move on. We compartmentalize and trade the examples of Jesus risking His reputation, sacrificing sleep and safety for the picture of docile, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white Jesus in a nice robe holding a baby lamb. We choose the version of Him we are most comfortable with while the Jesus with the olive skin, wiry hair and dirty sandals is asking us to take a closer look. He took risks, he sacrificed, he understood and leaned in. And when I’m asked questions like “what can we do?” and “how can we be better”, my answer is summed up into the Jesus we trade for the Jesus we can be comfortable with.
People of color don’t need your sympathy or covet your prayers. People of color want your understanding and need your action.
Once the riots settle (because they will), once we have gone one or two weeks without another name hashtag added to the list, once the dust has settled and the pandemic is our only worry, where will we be? We have historically, as a nation, gotten riled and then resumed our regular scheduled programming after things return to a sense of semi-normalcy. This time, we need things to be different. We want equality and reconciliation and the Church should be the leader in the movement towards the reality of both of those things. While I can’t pinpoint exactly how to get there, I can advise on a few places to start:
· Conversations with, and building relationships with people of color. Your circles should reflect your desire for inclusion.
· Education on terms and concepts like systemic oppression, covert racism, white fragility and privilege, and racial inclusion.
· Diversity within the church, which looks like either diversity in church leadership, or cultural inclusion, or both (both of these on all sides of the racial spectrum).
· Denouncing racism and white supremacy publicly and from the pulpit in non-generalized ways. Silence is the enemy of change.
· Using your influence in whatever ways you can to reform policies and ideologies that perpetuate individual and societal racism and systemic oppression.
· Listen. Before you post, before you ask, before you make suggestions, just listen. Minority voices have grown weary from screaming and not being heard.
· Lastly, be that city on the hill. When we are tired and angry and hurt and broken, be the place where we can find healing and have our faith in humanity restored.