When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
What do we do with our anger? This heavy, holy anger that simmers and bubbles, a cauldron of hot and red and fire.
How is another death justified? One man, one stalled car, one fateful night in Tulsa. How is another death justified? Shouldn’t he be able to yell at police and still be alive? Shouldn’t he be able to brandish a weapon and still be alive? Shouldn’t he be high or drunk or black or brown and still be alive?
We wait for facts, we need details before we speak up. We want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this guy didn’t deserve death. Frankly, no one deserves death by another human whether that human is entrusted or not to take a life. It just should not be this easy – to kill another person. It should not be this easy to assume guilt when we are commissioned to assume innocence. And in case we forget, once the person is dead, it’s too late, guilt or innocence is a foregone conclusion, useless.
I am honored to be part of a church planting initiative through Highlands Church in Denver. Our goal is to establish churches throughout the local and national landscape that offer full membership to the LGBTQ population. The first half of our monthly meeting this past Sunday began with a visit from a local African American pastor, Jasper Peters. Peters was invited to discuss with our mostly white team how, in the future, we can plant churches that are mindful of our whiteness, creating avenues for greater diversity.
The most important word he used, that reverberates like a drum in my head, was painstaking. The process of seeking equality is painstaking. The rooting up, the staring down, the admission of guilt, the confession and repentance of superiority is ugly, dangerous, painstaking work. He reminded us of the sin – this inherent and buried notion that we, being white, are somehow more valuable or superior to another who is not. He discussed the reality of a double consciousness, where he, as a black man, perceives the world through his lens. Concurrently, he must also anticipate and perceive the world through the lens of the dominant, white male culture. Sounds exhausting to me, for as a woman I understand this concept.
After the Dallas police killings, we witnessed an upsurge in police appreciation. Yes, I know it’s important. I’m aware of the good ones, the ones who are doing their work and protecting our communities and offering justice, assistance and relief while exhausted and overworked. Many churches held moments of silence and offered gratitude after the horrific events, as they should have. Yet, I wonder what it must feel like to the black and brown constituents, when churches praise the efforts of police but fail to do the work of racial reconciliation. Are these same churches asking the hard questions from the pulpit? I would love to hear my local police department respond to a church’s kind invitation with, “You know what? I appreciate your gesture, I do, but until our minority neighbors feel safe in their own community, our work is not done. Would you please partner with us in bringing equality?”
For Christians, the crucial task of seeking equality, of identifying and overturning the dominant systems that oppress our neighbors, is ours. We must do the painstaking task of churning up our sin of Christian white supremacy. Terence Crutcher should not be dead. He should not have been shot because of a broken vehicle. He should not have laid in the roadway, dying, for minutes while his nearest aid hid behind a police cruiser. Terence Crutcher should not be one of hundreds of black and brown bodies whose blood oozes across the asphalt because of fear. Fear of questions, fear of upheaval, fear of honesty, fear of answers.
I’ll start and you can join in: I am a Christian. I am a white supremacist. I am a racist. I like my comfort and I like that my kids are white. I have benefitted from the structures that favor my whiteness. I have passed judgment on another, believing they have not done their fair share, using words like “get a job” and “bootstraps”. I have been afraid of black people, I have been afraid of brown people. I have suspected guilt of a black or brown person over a white person. I have believed that I have my life because I did so many things right. I have expressed gratitude in the quiet of my space that I don’t have to have the conversations with my boys. I breathe a sigh of relief when my sixteen year old drives away, knowing he will not be profiled. I live on the right side of town with the best schools and I deserve this for some reason.
I am not pleased. I am disturbed and troubled by these thoughts I have. I am aware, more than I ever have been of the inequality that plagues our nation and world. I confess and repent today. I will confess and repent tomorrow until the work of uprooting and eradication is done. I will confess and repent for a lifetime, I suspect, as I do this painstaking work.
What about you?