Dear Church, from Roosevelt

This is part of a series of posts inviting friends to share their perspectives.

Dear Church,

Thank you, for leaning into this problem of racism and inequality, with a heart for understanding the perspective of the marginalized.

Like you, my heart breaks for the fact that people feel that violence is an answer. I understand it. I fight the same feelings. Undoubtedly you have also felt the same but probably for different reasons. At one time we all thought peaceful was working until everyone got cameras in their pockets and we were able to see the reality, that nothing has changed. I believe the church should be the catalyst for the change.

Let me begin by saying I am black and I am white. I am also a Jesus follower. I have been discriminated to my face and denied opportunities behind my back in ways that I can only attribute to the fact that my name is ethnic, and my photo has darker skin.

Now sure, I can tell you countless stories about how racism has impacted me, and you would likely say, “Oh that poor man.” Don’t think of me as a victim. Why do I say this? It’s these ideas that cause people to do the bare minimum to make themselves feel good. “I donated, so I’m done.” “I met a person different than me so I did my part.” “I posted a Black Lives Matter photo on social media so you have my support.” Don’t stop there, go further. So what can the church do to help?

Stop

Stop pretending that Jesus cares about all people. Believe it, live it. Why should people be denied Jesus and the love of Jesus because of their skin color, because of their circumstances? Go further now. When Jesus stands for the marginalized, where are we standing? Are we standing next to Him, are we behind Him, or are we distant, trying to decide if what He is standing for fits with what we understand and believe?

Look

Our view of the world used to be limited to our first hand experiences, what we read about on page 6 of the paper, or what was shown to us on the news. Times are different. It’s still easy to turn a blind eye, but I urge you to resist. I urge you to look for the injustices around us. I urge you to look at the systems that were once designed to protect, and how they are used to oppress.

Listen

Listen to the stories, the struggles, listen to the cries of the marginalized. A different perspective is not bad, unless you refuse to accept that two people can’t differ in their perspective. This is true of their perspective of God.

In second grade I was told black and whites should not be married. This was from teachers and staff at a Christian School. This experience shaped my view of God for the next 20-25 years. Just listen.

I literally just burst into tears because the weight of writing this statement hit me in a different way. This one statement affected my entire relationship with God. It’s still very real for me today.

Act

Even if you’re not sure what to say, say enough is enough. If you’re not sure how to act, act like Jesus. If you don’t know where to start, subscribe to this blog, Google it, educate yourself, then teach someone else. Stand when others stand, and kneel when others kneel. Whatever you do, don’t freeze, ACT. Here are some books that are great to start with.

Resources:

  • Strength To Love – Link – (Martin Luther King Jr.)
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race – Link  – (Beverly Daniel Tatum)
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Link – (Robin DiAngelo)

Why does this matter? Even though I’ve dealt with racism and injustices my whole life—and still do—I want the same things that you want. Just because my skin is darker doesn’t change my goals my and my dreams. I have a dream to move the Pacific Northwest and assist in change. Goals for my children to go to college, hopes of being debt-free, etc. Just like you. Just like everyone else. The major difference is that for people of color, many of these are not in reach. This is because of the disparity between our wages, our opportunities, our ability to be recognized as intelligent and skillful, because of a system designed to protect people, that gets used to oppress people.

What can we do about it? Fight. Fight with your voice. Not just when another black person is killed in the streets, but for the days and weeks after, and years after. Stand up for justice in your workplace, in your neighborhoods. Get to know people on an individual level. Talk about their hopes and dreams, understand their struggle. Not because you can somehow fix it. But because you want to build a connection with someone different so you can understand a different perspective. So when the time arises and it will arise, you will stand up and fight for justice, for equality, for opportunity. 

So here’s my challenge to you. Be part of the change. Be on the side of change that finally puts an end to the silence, an end to inequality, and an end to racism. Start small if you must but start now. We can’t waste another day. Do it for your future generations. More importantly, do it for the marginalized communities’ future generations.

When Jesus stands for the marginalized, where are we standing? Are we standing next to Him, are we behind Him, or are we distant, trying to decide if what He is standing for fits with what we understand and believe? @wudzboy Click To Tweet

Roosevelt is a husband, a father, a brother, and a son. He grew up in big cities and has lived in small towns. He is best friends with high ranking people in law enforcement, business, and politics, while at the same time best friends with homeless and marginalized people.

You can connect with Roosevelt on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan. Husband to Michelle and father to five. Author of Redeeming Pleasure and Lead Pastor at Abundant Life Church in Portland.

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