The hard discussions on race

Let me set the context again when it comes to posting something on race and racism. The “big event” for me was the shooting of Philando Castile last summer. So many high profile shootings had been boiling over to that point, but when this shooting happened in my metro area to a man who was simply pulled over for a minor traffic violation (and having a “wide nose” like a robbery suspect…) I was stirred in a way that hasn’t let up. And I can’t let it up. I pray I can’t let it up.  Continue reading “The hard discussions on race”

We could be at a pivot moment for racial reconciliation

Dr. John Perkins’ statement near the beginning of this video is hopeful. For a man who has given so many decades to racial reconciliation, these were words of hope to me.

This is a pivot moment for the American Church. We can miss it and stay in our tiny binary world and thinking… or step up to radical Kingdom thinking. TRANSFORMED MINDS, TRANSFORMED LIVES.

We must do better — ending racism

The events of last week have left me drained emotionally. My soul is tired.

I was at a prayer vigil last night at a Methodist church and one of the pastors leading the prayer service asked, “How is your soul?” He paused, then said, “My soul is tired.”

My soul is tired because I knew something had changed in me watching the deaths… watching the deaths … of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In that change, I had a glimmer of hope: maybe this changes more of us as white pastors. 

As I’ve watched the foolish arguments unfold over the past few days, I’ve only grown more tired. Maybe it won’t change. Maybe we’ll still make our qualified statements… “If they just did what the cops tell them” … “If they just did this” … “Philando seemed to be a good man, BUT” …

My soul is tired.

The prayer vigil I attended last night prayed for the victims… all of them… and they also offered up prayers for the St. Anthony police officer who shot Philando Castile.

The prayer time included a walk to the St. Anthony Police Station. It was a walk of silent prayer. Hundreds walked the few blocks from the church up to the station. The leaders went to invite police officer on duty to join us in prayer. There wasn’t a response, but the group prayed.

A couple of days after some protests had turned violent in St. Paul, it was deeply moving to see a powerful prayer walk, prayers offered in repentance and healing, and all done with quiet demeanor. Beautiful calm.

My soul is tired.

My soul must find its strength in the Lord. Out of his strength, I find a way to stay awake to these issues. I don’t want to be lulled to sleep again.

Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for my silence. Forgive me for my inaction. I have been passionate about many other issues, but this one has been dormant. Forgive me! Let my soul find rest in you alone. 

Open my ears to stories of those oppressed. Forgive me for the “Yeah… but” statements I have thought in my mind or spoken out loud. Let me LISTEN. Let me weep. Let me FEEL. 

Lord, let me ACT. Let me advocate. Let me be a voice. Let me give aid in whatever way HELPS. 

Let your Kingdom come… here… now. In power. Amen. 

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Black Lives, Blue Lives, All Lives

In the past two weeks we have been confronted harshly with the bad choices of a couple of generations. (And in the case of race, it’s much longer than that.)

Just start with the current election cycle. We have two of the most deeply flawed candidates available set in front of us. But who put them there? We did. And now… WE feel stuck? And no matter what the political leaning or religious leaning, we feel like we don’t have any options. It’s a binary, “either/or” world we THINK we live in… and it jams us up.

And now we have the racial tensions front and center once again. So, in social media it’s EITHER… black lives matter OR blue lives matter.

So, when I write a couple of posts that actually get some attention, and I watch comments on friends Facebook pages about what I wrote, those binary thoughts come out all over again.

We can’t handle the tension we really have in our world so we make binary choices. “It’s either this OR that.”

But my contention is this: it’s both and.

I can easily say “Black Lives Matter” because I need to acknowledge pain in my friends’ lives. For my friends, the question honestly is: “What if I’m pulled over?” And at that moment, I don’t pull out my stupid statistics and say, “Well, according to the latest data, you’re more safe than 50 years ago…” At that moment I let them know I hear that fear and I weep with them. 

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I can easily say “Blue Lives Matter” because I have friends in law enforcement. I know the anxiety they have these days. “What happens on this traffic stop?” And at that moment, I don’t pull out another set of statistics and say, “Well, you know…” At that moment I let them know I hear that fear and worry with them. I want them home safe.

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As a believer, as a white man, as whatever other label I need to slap on like I’m driving in a NASCAR race… I know these tensions exist and I will not live with either/or choices anymore.

Several months ago in a clergy meeting someone offered up what they truly believed was what I would best call an “altruistic” or “utopian” answer. They said, “I’m colorblind.”

Here is my tension: I am NOT colorblind. And Black Lives Matter. And Blue Lives Matter. And Muslim lives matter. And gay lives matter. And Christian lives matter.

I know I see color. In my flawed humanity I will admit I see color and there are times that is a beautiful thing… and there are other times it is an ugly thing (on my part). There are times I see color and rejoice at the differences. The beauty of difference in appearance, culture, music, literature, etc., delights me.

There are times I see color and tense up. And I know I have those moments. I wish they didn’t exist. But they do. And I’m sorry. It’s the tension in which I live.

As a white man, I have to acknowledge those tensions. In a way, I can’t apologize for those tensions. But I’m done with this forced binary thinking.

People keep asking, “Where do we start?”

For me, that is probably a good spot. Just recognize the tension and then deal with it. I need to ask my black friends, “How can I help? What do you see IN ME that needs some work?”

And that is another deep flaw I’ve had. I haven’t asked that question enough. I have asked that of my gay friends, my Muslim friends, and others… but I have not asked that enough of my black friends. And I am deeply sorry.

Let us refuse the “either/or” and work to live in the “both/and.”

It starts with me. It starts with the cross of Jesus Christ. I lay my life down and ask Kingdom truth, Kingdom power, to become my reality. Not the political, cultural rhetoric flying around me. I need the rhetoric of Kingdom language flowing through my soul.

 

Injustice and inaction

These words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ring in my head:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

With the shooting of Philando Castile on Wednesday night, seeing his girlfriend’s video that she bravely took as the event was happening, listening all Thursday morning to protests and speeches, then going to a protest in front of the governor’s mansion Thursday afternoon and hearing the pain in protestors’ voices, I have my own confession.

I am the squishy moderate.

Listening to the different protestors speak yesterday I could make the same exact arguments as to “methods” and how I might disagree with what some said. But it was out of grief. It was out of anger. Out of fear.

Let me use these words with clarity: what we have is systemic racism. We have so much work to do and I cannot sit back and criticize certain words or methods any more. I must advocate. I must speak. I must join in with those who struggle in a way that helps. 

The plain thought from everyone I heard on Thursday, including Governor Mark Dayton, was this conclusion: If Philando Castile had been white and his family had been white, Philando Castile would be alive.

There is no getting around that thought. Even Governor Dayton didn’t politically qualify his thoughts on the matter.

A four year old girl watched her mom’s boyfriend get shot. A four year old girl sat in the back of a police cruiser with her mom in handcuffs. A four year old girl comforted her mother as she began to weep over the situation, saying, “It’s okay, mommy. I’m here.”

A four year old  black girl watched that happen. A four year old white girl would not be in that situation on Thursday morning.

Having that thought finally out in the open… even spoken by the governor… identifies a systemic problem. We have so much work to do. And work we must do.

I am so sorry for my silence. Please forgive me.

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Do Black Lives Matter?

I woke up this morning to THIS NEWS. The New York Times. Headline. About my city.

That, on the heels of the Alton Sterling shooting.

A few months ago I attended a forum held at the college where I teach. Students and faculty and university staff got together to talk about the Jamar Clark shooting and the decision not to prosecute the police officers involved. With great compassion, there was a discussion where feelings were aired. In one powerful exchange, someone very thoughtfully asked, “What is the meaning of using #BlackLivesMatter? Don’t all lives matter? Can you please help me understand?”

With great care and compassion an African American student answered that of course all lives matter, but when there is a particular issue comes up that highlights a particular problem, there is a need to emphasize that particular problem, along with the pain involved. “It’s like going to a rally for cancer survivors where they say ‘Cancer sucks!’ and someone pipes up and says, ‘Yeah, but so does AIDS.'”

Powerful.

So, today, I scream in my spirit and weep in my heart and sob out: DO BLACK LIVES MATTER?

Today, I lament. I don’t try to be theologically correct. I am hurting for many friends  who voice their fears today. I am hurting because of a former student who posted just a few days ago that not far from where last night’s shooting took place SHE was pulled over for “DWB.” (Driving While Black)

I lament because, as a white man, I will hear the arguments all over again:

“Well, Alton Sterling had a criminal record.”

“Well, if they would do what the police tell them, it would be okay.”

Bunk.

I’d use stronger language, but I know my mom reads these posts.

In lament, I cry out because I’m tired of the excuses. I cry out because I’m tired of people responding with statistics about “black on black” crimes.

In the case of Philando Castile, there will be the attempt to assassinate his character, but I am SO  DONE to these lousy excuses. A man driving with his girlfriend and little girl with a busted tail light… is dead. It wasn’t 2 a.m. It was 9 p.m. He wasn’t drunk, drugged out, selling anything illegal. He was driving with his family. And he is dead today.

So, today, I will gladly field all the lousy excuses we, as white people, throw out, and I will throw a lot of things back! In lament, the sorrow overtakes rationale, so lament will rule the day.

Do Black Lives REALLY Matter?

When we hear of a shooting like this and immediately think, “Well, if he had just done…” do black lives matter?

Would a cop come up a white family and react the exact same way? Would a white man informing a cop that he is carrying a weapon legally and trying to comply with the officer’s instructions be dead today?

And where IS the NRA today? Will they rise up and defend a BLACK man legally carrying?

Today is a day for lament.

DO black lives matter?

How long, O Lord?