Sorry this is late, Reader; I had half an entry written yesterday and then left work early to sleep because I was exhausted on every possible level. I napped for a good chunk of the afternoon and then slept ten hours last night and I’m still tired to my very bones—but I’m working on it.
I did take the time, however, to get up last night and go to a gathering in support of Black Lives Matter here in the Land of Pilgrims. I would say sorry, this is a blog about living into Christianity and I’m going to detour into politics, but that would be untrue. Living into Christianity, I’m learning, is politics. I’m not saying that we all have to declare a party, but I am saying that we’re doing something wrong (or not doing something) if we sidestep politics, especially if it’s so as not to upset people. Jesus was an upsetting dude; He rattled the cages of a lot of folks in His day simply because He understood Himself not to be bound by the conventions of His leadership. We as His followers have to step into the uncomfortable places where we find injustice to be light and salt and all that other stuff that would be much easier if it didn’t involve pushing other people’s buttons.
So I went to this thing because seriously, enough is enough. I cannot in good faith—literally, in my faith—continue to say “oh, what a shame” and then pass on the opportunity to put body to voice. Facebook rants are not enough. Interpreter tossed this my way, indirectly, so I moved some other plans and roused myself to go on a steamy Friday night to listen.
That, actually, was my main purpose: to listen. This was a gathering where folks who are black could speak their piece and not have anyone talk over them, not be told they shouldn’t be angry, not be told that it wasn’t that big a deal. I stood in this park and listened to rants, to slam poetry, to raps, to pleas, to stories of persecution and pain and loss, to exhortations, and to sorrow stretching hundreds of years because this was not a place for me to talk. I’m white, and regardless of my feelings about that it is a biological fact. I can’t speak to the black experience in America because I don’t have a clue about it, so I went, and I listened.
I’m glad that I did; some powerful things were said. It was in a sense even more powerful because a family member had texted me as I was on my way over to tell me something and asked where I was going. On my response that it was a Black Lives Matter rally, she responded that white lives matter too, that all lives matter. They do not matter equally, I said, one white person to another; if saying that Black Lives Matter makes you defend your own racial value as though there is a limited number of resources that their assertion is taking away from you, then no, not all lives matter. It’s an imperfect world, she responded; as long as we treat others as we want to be treated, that’s all we can do.
God has not called us to try, Yoda that He is. God has called us to do, on a systemic level. If you love your neighbor as yourself but see that they are wounded by another and do nothing, where is your love? If you patch up a wounded man at the side of the road but don’t take him to an inn for long-term treatment, do you still get to claim being the Good Samaritan? If we as people of faith content ourselves with simply being nice on a person-to-person level, then change will only happen on a person-to-person level.
I’m not saying that that’s bad or that that can’t change the world; it can, most certainly, and it is on that individual level that change happens at all. But looking at the imperfections of the world and saying it will always be that way is saying that I don’t need to build the Kingdom because it’s not meant to be here on earth. False! We are called every day to be ready for Christ’s return; we are called every day to do something with the gifts that are given to us. If we are just burying them in the ground and saying the world is frightening and imperfect, do we truly think Christ is going to be pleased with that?
So that was an awkward conversation. But then I was at the rally and listening—and then I was marching. The organizers decided to shut down one of the main shopping areas downtown with a long march of these hundreds of people to say that we are here and we are not going away, and I must say I was very unsure of whether or not I’d stay. The police were out in force, several counter-protesters gathered with their American flags and their hatred, death threats had been made on the event’s Facebook page. I’m moving soon, I need to avoid things like being arrested or shot.
Then I realized I was thinking that and that that was why I needed to stay. Walking away is an option for me; if something had gone down, my being a white churchgoer would be a source of great protection for me. My fellow gatherers of color likely wouldn’t have that; so I marched with them, clapping along to the chants—-but often being unable to speak them.
Here’s the thing: I’m not into groupthink at all. I also think words carry great power. So it was hard for me to shout things like, “No justice, no peace!” because I want peace. I have no desire to start a fight.
But am I not already in one?
He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to Yahweh. (Proverbs 17:15, WEB)