This is the first post in a series of posts inviting friends to share their perspectives.
Before you proceed, I want to let you know that you may experience some turbulence while reading this post.
Dear church, to those who find themselves shocked, outraged, disappointed, and appalled by the recent protests in our country; to those who are angry and saddened as buildings burned, stores looted, and vehicles vandalized, I want you to know that I share your emotions.
But not for the same reasons.
I need you to understand that “things taste different” to a person of color. I have tasted more about our humanity as a church and our inhumanity in our perspective. I have tasted the utter contempt of NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem and then the initial silence of an officer placing his knee on the back of an unarmed and detained black man.
…silence tastes different.
I have tasted the “…he must have done something” as an initial response to an unarmed black man being murdered while jogging through a neighborhood.
…suspicion tastes different.
I have watched a woman in a park with her dog threaten a black man with “I’m going to tell the Police that there’s an African American man threatening my life,” knowing full well that those words would arouse an immediate response from law enforcement.
…blackness being used as weapon tastes different.
As a pastor, I am upset by the violent and destructive events happening in our country. However, I am even more upset with the silence of the church prior to these events. The shock, the outrage, and disappointment should be our immediate response. Instead, we have unfortunately responded with silence, suspicion, and apathy. We have fallen short as a church and the church must do more.
I am exhausted by the reoccurring theme I see in our culture. How many black lives need to be killed? What black lives need to be killed to wake us up? When will the church respond? Our silence is deafening. Our suspicion is disconcerting. Racism is rampant. Racism is real. Racism needs to eradicated. I am exhausted by our response. We can no longer ignore, dismiss, or minimize what is happening around us. Now more than ever, the world needs to hear about the grace, truth, and hope of the world. I am exhausted by cute hashtags and social media challenges. I understand the intent but it is not enough.
So what do we do? What action steps do we need to take? So what are the steps? My advice? Listen, learn, love, repeat.
Listen. Take a moment to pause. To actually listen to the why of those who are recipients of racism. Don’t dismiss the narrative that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. I recently had a terribly uncomfortable conversation with an individual who was really struggling with the recent protest. “This makes me so mad! They should not be doing this! How disrespectful!” When I asked her “Why do you think they are doing this?” her response was “I don’t care, it’s just wrong!” The “I don’t care,” is the bigger problem. Her outrage eclipsed her opportunity to learn. Listen to the why.
Learn. This is huge. Ignorance is bliss but it is also dangerous. Not knowing. Not understanding is catastrophic. There are many books that will educate, enlighten, and inspire you in a better understanding of racial issues and reconciliation. How we are going about our engagement and understanding with one another is not working. We can long arrange our understanding of race through media and opinions. There are many books available, but of course here are some of my favorites.
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness https://amzn.to/3gC0KI5
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness https://amzn.to/2XL06zw
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration https://amzn.to/2XOlQdI
- The 400 Year Head Start: Yet Still Destined for Glory https://amzn.to/3co6phv
Love. Deep breaths start before the first steps of love in action. It is important that we pause and check our intent and our motives. Engaging conflict with love is not trying to correct or provoke. Engaging conflict is seeking first to understand. Lean in and learn and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our world is a mess. Our world is hurting. Our world needs the church to help heal, restore, and display hope in this crazy time. Love is not a sprint, it’s not a marathon, it’s a journey of rugged terrain, moments of sunshine, moments of pain, and moments of understanding. Jesus has made a way. Let’s follow it!
“Riot is the language of the unheard.” Martin Luther King Jr.Listen, learn, love, repeat. @jonmoton Click To Tweet
Jon Moton is the Ahwatukee Campus Pastor at Central Christian Church in Arizona. He has been married to a wonderful, strong, and patient woman of God for 24 years. Jon and Cassandra have three daughters, Michaela, Delaney, and Taylynn… and a bunny who is also female.
Click here to read more posts from the “Dear Church” series.