White Churches: Do not be Silent on Police Brutality

I promise you almost every predominantly black church will talk about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this Sunday morning.  I can also promise you that almost every predominantly white church will be silent on it.

This should not be so.

The reason for this is because the killing of unarmed black men deeply affects the lives of every black man and woman in America.  Whenever it happens, it rips open the wound yet again.  A reminder of injustice.  A feeling that things will never change.  Fear for their lives and the lives of their children.  And a reminder that “All men are created equal” is still not a truism in this country.

"White Silence = White Consent" is a very in your face statement, offensive to many even. But is it any different than James 2:15-16? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?"

“White Silence = White Consent” is a very in your face statement, offensive to many even. But is it any different than James 2:15-16? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

White churches won’t talk about it for a number of reasons.  Talking about police brutality will offend people.  If people are offended they will leave the church.  So we’ll just talk about Jesus and tell people about Jesus, as if Jesus wouldn’t have said anything about the oppression of blacks or as if praying that the Kingdom of God come to this place (Matthew 6:10) has nothing to do with how blacks are treated.  As if Jesus and his teaching can be divorced from each other.  It’s the same reason white Evangelical churches didn’t talk about Jim Crow laws in the 60’s or rally to Dr. King’s side at his marches.  We say racism is bad, but we don’t connect the dots of how our faith and what we talk about are supposed to turn into action.

Less malicious but no less damaging, another primary reason white churches don’t talk about police brutality is because we simply don’t feel it.  When you live in an unequal society and are in the group with power and privilege, you never see the inequality.  If a kid is born into a white affluent suburb, they go to school and church with white, suburban kids, and then college with more of the same, it’s not their fault that all they know is white affluence (and yes, many white people grow up poor, but are still drastically privileged over people of color, which you can read about here).  I’m not writing this to shame the many in this boat.  It’s truly not their fault they were born in to this.  But it is true and something we need to wake up to.  It’s time to know.  It’s time to learn and listen.  When we don’t wake up to this and remain in our white sheltered slumber of non-reality, it sends out a wide vibe of non-love to our brothers and sisters of color.  They are nursing gaping wounds right in front of us and we are acting as if everything is peachy and that we should all smile and talk about Jesus.  Imagine having a broken leg, bone jutting out from your skin and all, and a group of able-bodied church folk invite you to play basketball with them.  Their silence would be more than deafening.  Their confusion about why you don’t want to play even more so.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 3.32.06 PMMeanwhile, whites are the first ones to tell you they don’t see color and that everyone is the same and will even talk theologically about how we’re all created in God’s image and are one in Christ.  (There’s a whole bunch wrong with saying you don’t see color by the way, which you can read about here.)

But if we’re one in Christ and all a part of the same body, when one part hurts, the rest feel it too!  If my leg is gushing blood, my arms don’t relax as if everything is fine in their world.  Which is why white churches cannot be silent about police brutality on Sunday morning.  Our leg is gushing blood right now!

When I watched the movie Selma, I cried when I watched the following scene.  The reason I cried is because I know what the white clergy’s response was to this invite by Dr. King, and I cried because I know it would be the same today…

But I also cried because I know I would have gone!  And I know I would have went because I won’t be silent about police brutality, and neither should you.


A life-changing must read for white Evangelicals:

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6 responses to White Churches: Do not be Silent on Police Brutality

  1. Church be Church July 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    If you grew up in the 40’s and 50’s or earlier, you probably wouldn’t have gone. That Christian church could so easily ignore the injustice of racism not only shows the power of sin to blind us but also sheds light on the truth that the church in America was not as Christian as it presumed. It also raises the ever-renewing question: today, what, and who, are blind to? And once seeing, what will we do?

    “The Church is called to go out of herself in order to go to the peripheries, not only the geographical peripheries, but also the existential peripheries: to the dwelling places of the mystery of sin, suffering, injustice, ignorance and disdain for religion and thought, the dwelling places of all sorts of poverty.” Jorge-Mario Bergoglio

    Not being silent is being aware and it’s a start but it’s not enough.

    • Thanks for this great comment. You are getting to the point I was trying to bring up in the article, and it’s the reason I cried in the Selma clip: we are STILL BLIND to the injustice of racism in the Church today, just like we were in the 40’s and 50’s. It’s a more covert form of racism, it’s a blindness to a huge racial divide / gap, but it’s still a blindness. So the apathy seen in the 60’s is the same apathy as today.

      To your last sentence, I’ve previously written much more about what we need to do about this racial injustice. You can check many of those out by browsing through my racial reconciliation category, but here are some specific ones:

      My purpose in this article was to say when something traumatic happens, the white church can’t just act like it didn’t.

  2. Church be Church July 22, 2016 at 9:54 am

    You write passionately and well about the issues of racial injustice. The Church needs men like you to prophesy to our time.
    We live in a day of Grace but do we not provoke God to anger still in our refusal to act justly?

    • Thank you for that encouraging complement. Talking about racial justice is tricky and I hope I do it with grace and truth.

      Your question is a good one. We don’t have the authority (like an OT prophet did) to pinpoint where and why God’s judgment comes today, but we’d all agree that if we live in sin, we are certainly depriving ourselves of communion with God and the blessing that is that communion. Maybe a good picture to use would be the “fruit” Jesus talks about so much. I think of a verse like John 17:20-21…maybe one of the reasons the world doesn’t believe / the Church doesn’t have credibility is because we’ve missed the boat so badly on this issue?

    • I wouldn’t put too much stock in this interview David. Most black people would call this guy an “Uncle Tom”. I’m not saying the official Black Lives Matter movement is right in all they do,they aren’t. But I don’t know one black person who would agree with this guy or who would say they haven’t experienced discrimination, most of them on a daily basis. And I’m talking about pastors, middle and upper class, highly educated black people who love Jesus.

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