Brady Boyd, Senior Pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, is doing great things to help the Church lead the way out of racial conflicts in meaningful ways–not sweeping the issues under the rug hoping they’ll go away. Instead of giving a sermon today, he led an open and honest dialog with two black couples in the church so we could hear their perspectives on racism. What we heard from them was quite eye-opening. Brady introduced the topic by quoting James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry….” He also concluded the discussion by saying that he didn’t mean for this time today to patronize our black brothers and sisters, nor did he mean for it to shame those of us who are white. His intent is to guide us all to the table for constructive, challenging, and needed discourse.
In light of what’s happening in our country these days, I thought it would be worth briefly summarizing what I heard today, then sharing some quotes from Scripture and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that seem particularly relevant. So here are some interesting points:
- We may not see racism in action because of our perspective. This hit home for me because I have been guilty of thinking that racism is on its way out since I don’t see any examples of it in my everyday life. But I am not black. These brothers and sisters shared recent personal stories where they (and even more sadly, their children) have experienced racism. Bottom line: we all (people of every color) need to wake up and realize that racism is very real. Admitting we have a problem is the first step toward curing it. One of the gentlemen said that while working on his master’s degree, he read A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America, by David Shipler, who pointed out that blacks see race in everything and whites see race in nothing. This seems to be a good summary of the difference perspective makes in perceiving racism.
- We need to celebrate our differences, but also recognize the vast sea of similarities. One of the ladies on the panel said she really doesn’t like it when people say that they don’t see the color of someone’s skin. She added, “Please do see it. When you don’t see the color of my skin, you don’t see me.” The point, however, is not to judge someone because of the color or their skin. If we are going to do anything with our differences–and it seems like we should–we should celebrate them in mutually respectful ways, and then land together on the realization that we have much more in common than we do differences. Ultimately, if we were to take the time to make a Venn diagram with a very detailed list of characteristics that make up a person, we would see that it looks something like this:
In other words, there are far more things that link us together than those that separate us. But let us celebrate both.
- If you have pain in your elbow and do nothing about it, that pain is going to keep getting worse until you do something about it. What we are seeing now in our country is an explosion of pain resulting from a group of people who have not been truly heard. In order to make this pain go away, we need to be able to come to the table–all of us–to have civilized discourse, something that has been nearly eradicated by people on both extremes of the political spectrum who freely spew hateful speech in social media that they would never say to someone’s face [I recognize the irony of me saying this in a blog, a form of social media, but I do not intend for this statement to be hateful and I would say the same thing (in calm and soothing tones) to anyone in person who would listen to me.] We need to ask each other earnest questions with the goal of creating common understanding of one another and working together to find peaceful solutions that are more than a simple detente (i.e., sweeping it under the rug).
- The best hope for a resolution to our current situation is Jesus Christ. Although this isn’t a new idea to me, it warrants repeating anyway because it is a hope we already have in common. Jesus is the answer, and not just because we were in church! Jesus told a radical story about how the only man who would help a stranger who was beaten almost to the point of death was someone from a different–and hated–racial group: a Samaritan. So He clearly understood our human tendency to hate or fear people who are different from us, and in this story He give us the simple (although not easy) answer, that if we see another human being in need of help, we are to help them.
With that summary, let me now get to some scriptural references and quotes from Dr. King, all of which I hope will make you–will make all of us–think about how we can work together constructively toward a real unity and toward a real end to the festering would of racism. As Brady pointed out, the Church can and should lead the way out of this national nightmare.
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” I Corinthians 1:10
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?”he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,”Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)
Dr. King Quotes
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ”
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
“There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.”
“A riot is the language of the unheard.”
“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
“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.”
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“We who in engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”
“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.”