We still aren’t talking

Once we get a news cycle out of the way, we somehow make it okay to move away from the difficult conversations. Throw in the wackiest election cycle in… well… forever, and it’s easy to forget the underlying difficulties we still don’t deal with in our culture. It’s only been two months since I was jolted by the shooting of Philando Castile, but we’ve moved away from conversation on race quite easily.

I want to share this video from someone who has deeply impacted my thinking on race. It’s an older video and we’ve had quite a few more incidents since this was recorded, but Michelle Alexander and her book, The New Jim Crow, had an impact. This video is long, but worth the time. I would say, “I hope you enjoy,” but I would be lying.

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.

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.

 

When the large needs to learn from the small

In the church context, that’s another conversation. And, let’s be honest, probably one that won’t be had in the near future.

But there IS a context it SHOULD happen… and SOON.

There are two situations linked in a way I think it’s time to say, “The large could learn from the small.”

One article posted by a couple of teachers in the school district where I pastor struck a cord. It’s about the tough environment of teaching high needs/high risk kids and the lack of support that happens in that environment.

The other event is Baltimore. The recent riots and the whole issue of community policing, poverty, race, and more.

I want to invite anyone and everyone to Columbia Heights, MN. We don’t do everything well, but we have an attitude to do things RIGHT.

The schools are incredibly diverse and deal with poverty. In the midst of that, along with the harsh conditions teachers deal with day in and day out, success can happen. It’s not always noticeable, and that’s a shame. But our school system is visionary in how they educate kids of all economic and intellectual development.

Our city does community policing the right way. It’s always a struggle, but it’s done WELL. They hire for diversity when at all possible. They get involved in the schools as big brothers/sisters. They have open gym times. They know kids before they have to deal with kids on trouble. It makes a huge difference.

“Big” cities need to see how this place does it.

They love the community and invite the community to the table… ALL of the community. As a pastor, I’ve always enjoyed wonderful access to our community and have worked many years to bring positive solutions to the city. They allow us to help mentor kids in the high school. They allow us places at the table in key committees within the city and the district… as the church. 

They work hard to have all voices at the table and when a segment is missing, it actually bothers them.

We can do things right. Minneapolis should come up all of three blocks from their border and learn. Baltimore should come out here. Ferguson should REALLY come out here.

Talk to our leaders. Talk to our churches. Talk to our mosque.

It’s not perfect. But it’s not Baltimore, either.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9)